157 new vaccination sites to open, bringing total to 567; positive-test rate is down again; one-year memorial set Saturday

University of Kentucky pharmacist Stephanie Branham, left, gave UK’s 100,000th coronavirus vaccination to Roberta Mason of Frankfort, accompanied by her daughter Sherry Brown, at Kroger Field March 4. (UK photo by Mark Cornelison)

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday that the state would open 157 new sites for coronavirus vaccinations, and that Kentucky’s rates of new cases and positive tests for the virus continue to trend down.
“Vaccine locations are getting closer and closer and closer to you; so again, this is the infrastructure we have to build,” Beshear said at his last pandemic news briefing of the week. “The president told us earlier this week that every adult who wants a shot can get their first shot of hope by the end of May. That means that we are going to vaccinate, provided we can get everybody interested, another 2.5 million people or so in the next three months.”
The state’s daily vaccination report shows 760,585 Kentuckians have received a first dose of vaccine. Beshear noted that only three days into March, the state had already vaccinated more than 60,000 people.
A downed computer server interrupted shots at the regional sites in Bowling Green and the Kentucky Horse Park, but Beshear assured those affected that they would get vaccinated, and asked for their patience.
He said the 157 new vaccine sites will bring the total to 567. They include one new regional site at Baptist Health LaGrange; 10 Kroger sites; 10 Walmart sites; and 136 Federal Pharmacy Program sites, which include Walgreens and independent pharmacies with the Good Neighbor Pharmacy brand.
Beshear often notes that health departments and independent pharmacies will play a special role in reaching hard-to-reach populations. That played out Thursday in Lexington. The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, with the help of the Lexington Senior Center and the Lexington Fire Department, gave more than 500 people age 70 and older their second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine today, according to a post on Twitter.
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 1,068 new virus cases Thursday, making the seven-day average 959, the first time it’s been below 1,000 since Oct. 15.
Calling it the “best news of the day,” Beshear announced that the percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days declined again, to 4.45% , the lowest since Oct. 12.
Kentucky’s case rate still remains higher than most states, ranking 12th nationwide, according to The New York Times. On Thursday, the state reported its rate to be 17.2 cases per 100,000 population.
The “hot” county in the state, with a rate of 280 per 100,000 over the last seven days, is Lyon, partly because of an outbreak at the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville. The state Corrections Department’s Covid-19 report says the prison has 135 cases among inmates and 18 among staff.
Other counties with rates more than double the statewide rate were: Caldwell, 66.1; Robertson, 54.2; Clay, 49.5; Taylor, 47.7; McCreary, 43.9; Knox, 42.7; Adair, 41.7; Green, 40.5; Simpson, 34.6; and Russell, 32.7.
Covid-19 hospital numbers in Kentucky remained mostly stable, with 645 people hospitalized with the disease (down 35 from yesterday); 172 in intensive care (down 3); and 91 of those on a ventilator (up 12).
The Lake Cumberland hospital readiness region is the only one using 80% or more of its intensive-care beds, at 91%, with 24% of them Covid-19 patients.
Beshear reported 28 new Covid-19 deaths on Thursday, 25 confirmed and three probable. That brings the state’s death toll to 4,732. The 14-day death average is down 0.7, to 25.6 deaths per day.
In long-term care facilities, 143 residents and 144 staff have an active case of the virus, with 12 residents and eight staff added to that list today.
Beshear said 11 of the 28 deaths reported Thursday were from long-term care, and said even though the number of deaths in these facilities is declining, that doesn’t mean Kentucky isn’t still losing people.
“We will continue to lose people until we’re fully out of the woods and everybody is vaccinated,” he said. “That’s the reason we’re not going to do what Texas or Mississippi has done. Those decisions will increase casualties when we just have maybe even a matter of months to go.”
Beshear was referring to Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi reopening businesses to full capacity and ending their states’ mask mandates. Tuesday, he called the Texas decision “reckless.”
Memorial: Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman will host a virtual Covid-19 memorial on the Capitol grounds at 1 p.m. ET Saturday, March 6, to honor the 4,700 Kentuckians who have died from Covid-19 and to mark one year since the first positive case of the virus was detected in the state. The event will include faith leaders, musical performances and remembrances, and a memorial video to commemorate the year. The governor will also unveil long-term plans to honor those lost to the pandemic at the ceremony. Kentuckians can watch the memorial on Facebook and YouTube.
Politics: Asked if his discussions with legislators could short-circuit the court case about their efforts to limit his emergency powers, or if he was confident enough in his position to simply allow anticipated appeals to proceed, Beshear said he was confident in his position.
He didn’t directly answer the first part of the question, but said his communications with legislators had improved, “primarily on other topics.”

“There’s only one commander-in-chief, and ultimately this has to be an executive-driven response,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that we’re not willing to talk to legislative leaders, we are. And I hope that we can have those conversations moving into the future and my confidence in our position isn’t going to prevent that from happening.”

He added, “There have been good discussions, primarily on other topics, over the last several weeks. We’ve had a number of areas where we’ve been able to work together. You’ve seen some bipartisan bills pass, and I had a hand in some of those. And we’ve seen much better communication on a number of different areas that give me hope for a better relationships moving forward. “
He said the pandemic has been stressful for everyone. “Hopefully, the quality of our discussions can continue, and we can build some better relationships coming out of a pandemic. Obviously, that’s a two- sided deal, but we see, again, we see better reach-out all the way around right now.”
Weather effects: Beshear and his lieutenants spent a good bit of the briefing talking about devastation caused by ice storms and flooding and explaining the 30-day process to apply for federal disaster aid.
“We spent so much of this last year working to protect each other and asking people to be healthy at home,” said Beshear. ” And now a whole lot of our families don’t have a home.”
A key take-away was the importance of documenting the damage.  “For you homeowners and folks who have had personal property damage, document, take pictures,”  said Rocky Adkins, senior adviser to Beshear. “Make sure that that’s part of . . . our information that’s sent in to Washington, D.C. to ask for that declaration . . . so we can have a full application that will go in for approval to come back and bring relief to our people who are hurting so bad.”
Beshear’s news release said, “Twenty cities and 44 counties have declared a state of emergency. Over 194 county roads closed due to flooding. Three counties have reported power outages: Breathitt, Jackson and Owsley. Lee and Owsley counties each have one shelter open; Breathitt County has two.”
In other pandemic news Thursday:
  • The 28 fatalities were a Boyle County woman, 88; a Carlisle County man, 66; a Daviess County woman, 87; a Fayette County woman, 96; a Floyd County man, 59; a Franklin County woman, 83; a Fulton County woman, 71; two Graves County women, 84 and 85; a Hardin County woman, 80; a Harlan County woman, 76; a Henderson County woman, 72; two Jefferson County women, 85 and 91; two Jefferson County men, 63 and 94; a Kenton County man, 61; a Larue County man, 83; a McCracken County man, 80; a Madison County woman, 96; a Marshall County woman, 78; a Meade County man, 60; two Nelson County women, 74 and 78; a Perry County man, 75; a Pulaski County man, 56; a Taylor County woman, 72; and a Warren County woman, 83.
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases of the virus were Jefferson, 152; Lyon, 127; Fayette, 51; Boone, 47; Caldwell, 45; Kenton, 36; Oldham, 30; Campbell, 24; Rowan, Scott and Warren, 22; Hardin, 19; Daviess, 18; Franklin, Laurel and Marshall, 17; McCracken and Madison, 15; Bell, Grant and Shelby, 14; Jessamine, 11; and Barren, Harlan, Pike and Wayne, 10.
  • The Lexington Herald-Leader reports on how long you should wait after a coronavirus infection to get vaccinated: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says such people should have no symptoms and meet the criteria to leave isolation, but other experts say that if you are not on a high-priority list for a vaccination, wait 90 days to give others without natural immunity a chance to go first.
  • Some of the University of Louisville’s best-known basketball players got a vaccine Wednesday to inspire others to get it too, Deborah Yetter reports for the Louisville Courier Journal.
  • Pregnant women in Kentucky are now eligible for vaccines, and officials from Norton Healthcare strongly recommend that they get it after the first trimester,  Lexie Ratterman reports for WDRB.
  • The CDC and the Louisville health department recommend staying home this spring break, Gina Glaros reports for WDRB.
  • Beshear extended an executive order on pharmaceuticals that allows all Kentucky pharmacists to dispense emergency 30-day refills on medications.
  • Click here for the governor’s press release with information about getting access to food for students via the Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer program, which has been extended through the school year; an update on unemployment insurance; and a weather update.
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