With supply of new J&J vaccine to be boosted by Merck deal, Beshear says state may need FEMA help to get doses in arms

Ky. Health News graph; case numbers are from unadjusted daily reports; click on it to enlarge

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

President Biden announced Tuesday that there will be enough coronavirus vaccine for every American adult by the end of May, largely because Merck & Co. has agreed to partner with Johnson & Johnson to help make its single-dose, easy-to-store vaccine.

Gov. Andy Beshear lauded the partnership at a regional vaccination site visit in Frankfort on Wednesday. “The timetable to ending this virus has been moved up and moved up significantly,” he said. “And that is great news.”

Asked Monday if the state would need assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to handle the influx of supply that will be coming with the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Beshear said he would keep that option “available and open.”

Previously, he had said he didn’t want a FEMA mass-vaccination site unless it came with more doses of vaccine, but now there is concern that there aren’t enough vaccinators to put doses into arms.

“It is certainly a possibility that we will either accept a FEMA site and or additional FEMA personnel even with projected supply that we’ll get,” Beshear said. “As we get new projections of supply, and they increase it, it may be that our current providers don’t have the staff necessary to increase.”
He added later, “We also have some folks that have been helping out the state in other capacities that have the right licensing to provide vaccines, and we may be able to move them over too.” He said he wants to make sure the state keeps using at least 90 percent of its weekly supply, “and if we have to adjust staffing to do that, we will.”

The state’s daily vaccination report for Wednesday shows 731,793 Kentuckians have received their first dose of a vaccine. Beshear noted that the rate of vaccinations is ramping up, with about 20,000 Kentuckians vaccinated in just one day on Tuesday.

To find the closest vaccination site near you or to find transportation to that site go to vaccine.ky.gov or call 855-598-2246. The website also allows you to get on a list to find out when appointments are available at new and existing sites across the state.

Daily numbers: Beshear announced 1,175 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the state’s seven-day rolling average to 1,013, the lowest since Oct. 15.

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days continues to decline, to 4.60% on Wednesday, from 4.76% Tuesday and 4.84% Monday. Health officials regularly call for a positivity rate below 5% as a sign of low community spread.

Even though Kentucky’s case rate is declining, it’s doing so at a slower rate than other states. The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s case rate 12th highest. The state reports its rate is 18.42 cases per 100,000 people.

The highest rates are in Lyon and Caldwell counties: 200 and 140 per 100,000, respectively. They reflect an outbreak of virus cases at the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex, which is in Lyon County but gets its mail from Fredonia, which is in Caldwell County. Lyon County has other prisons, but the complex accounts for 232 of the 245 active cases among state-prison inmates.

Other counties with rates double the statewide figure are Taylor, 53.2; McCreary, 50.6; Clay, 48.8; Knox, 44.0; Green, 40.5; Owsley, 38.8; Russell, 38.3; Adair, 37.9; and Whitley, 37.4.

The number of counties in the most critical “red zone” for counties with 25 or more cases per 100,000 also continues to drop, with only 17 of the 120 counties in the zone on Wednesday.

The day’s downside was 33 additional deaths from Covid-19, seven probable and 26 confirmed. That brings the state’s toll to 4,704. The state has averaged 26.3 deaths per day over the last 14 days; that reflects the date deaths were listed after the cases went through official reviews.
Beshear said in a social media post, “Let’s remember as we work toward defeating this virus, we can’t quit. We can’t stop working hard each and every day. We’ve got to keep masking up, we have to keep engaging in social distancing, we’ve got to keep appropriate rules and regulations in place because we continue to lose people, even as we get closer to the end.”
Beshear said he will hold a ceremony Saturday to recognize the one-year anniversary of when the state announced its first case; details are forthcoming.
In other pandemic news Wednesday: 
  • The 33 fatalities were an Adair County woman, 69; two Boone County women, 62 and 80; a Boone County man, 58; a Boyd County man 78; a Bullitt County man, 73; a Clark County woman, 74; two Clark County men, 76 and 90; two Daviess County man, 57 and 65; a Floyd County man, 70; a Grant County woman, 43; a Grayson County woman, 64; a Hopkins County woman, 86; two Jefferson County women, 73 and 83; four Jefferson County men, 58, 74, 84 and 89; a Jessamine County woman, 89; a Jessamine County man, 69; a Kenton County woman, 71; a Laurel County man, 81; a Letcher County man, 46; a McCracken County woman, 65; a McCracken County man, 86; a Nelson County man, 72; a Shelby County man, 83; two Warren County men, 44 and 67; and a Webster County woman, 87.
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 180; Kenton, 65; Fayette, 54; Boone, 48; Campbell, 46; Scott, 35; Hardin, 32; McCracken and McCreary, 25; Madison and Oldham, 24; Pulaski, 22; Grant and Laurel, 21; Daviess, Jessamine and Warren, 20; Wayne, 19; Bullitt, Franklin and Knox, 17; Rowan, 16; Lincoln, 14; Barren and Taylor, 13; Clark, Nelson, Perry, Pike and Shelby, 12; Logan, Simpson and Whitley, 11; and Lawrence, 10.
  • Hospital numbers continue to trend down, with with 680 people hospitalized with Covid-19 (down 4 from yesterday), 175 of them in intensive care (down 3); and 79 of those on ventilators (down 3). Today’s hospitalizations are the fewest since Oct. 16.
  • The easternmost hospital readiness region of the state, from Lee to Pike counties, along with the Lake Cumberland region, continue to use more than 80% of their intensive care beds: 84.56% and 97.78% respectively.
  • Maggie Menderski of the Louisville Courier Journal tells the story of 105-year-old Donald Robinson who has survived two pandemics and recently got his first dose of the vaccine.
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