As case numbers and positive-test rates tick up, Beshear warns a fourth wave is possible, pleads with Kentuckians to get a vaccine

Kentucky Health News graph from initial, unadjusted daily case reports

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Citing rising case numbers and percentage of positive tests, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday, “It is at least a warning that a fourth wave is possible here. . . . We can prevent it. We should prevent it. It requires people to get vaccinated and continue to mask up.”
The state reported 834 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 614, which is higher than yesterday, but lower than Tuesday (although that included last week’s backlog). The average is now what it was on March 25.
“There’s reason to be concerned, with so many other states seeing an uptick in cases,” Beshear said. “We are so close to the end, and . . . now that we have vaccines, there’s no excuse not to get everyone to the finish line. Let’s make sure that a family doesn’t have to grieve because we weren’t willing to wear a mask for the last month, month and a half, we weren’t willing to do what it takes to get there; we weren’t willing to get our own vaccine, not because we were against it, but we just didn’t think this thing would hurt us in particular. Let’s make sure that we continue to do the right things.”
Beshear said 166 of Thursday’s new cases were in Kentuckians 18 and younger, and that 47 of those were between 16 and 18, an age-group that recently became eligible for vaccination.
The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is “ticking up and up and up,” said Beshear. Thursday, it was 3.45%, higher for the sixth day in a row.
The seven-day average of daily new cases has gone up nine days in a row, from a low of 9 cases per 100,000 residents on April 6. On Thursday, that rate was 12.23 cases per 100,000 people, the highest it’s been since mid-March. The New York Times data tracker ranks Kentucky’s rate 35th among the states.
Counties with rates double the statewide rate were Bracken, 55.1 cases per 100,000 residents; Lewis, 47.4; Bath, 43.4; Harlan, 39; Mason, 34.3; Wolfe, 33.9; Robertson, 27.1; Morgan, 26.8; and Todd, 24.4.
Hospital numbers were down a bit today, but Beshear noted that they starting to trend up a bit. In Kentucky 416 people are hospitalized with Covid-19, four fewer than yesterday, with 102 of them in intensive care (down 13); and 49 of those on a ventilator (down two).
Two of the hospital readiness regions have 80% or more of their intensive-care beds occupied: Lake Cumberland, at 80% and the easternmost region, from Pike County to Lee County, at 83.8%.
Beshear said 1,662,924 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with 46% of those 16 and older having received at least one dose, and 48% of those 18 and older.
Beshear has said he will lift capacity limits on most businesses and activities when 2.5 million Kentuckians receive at least one dose of a vaccine, which is 70% of the state’s adult population.
“We’re not trying to set a goal to force anybody to do something, that just is when it becomes safer,” he said. “It’s math and science. Math and science aren’t political.”

He said 877,076 more Kentuckians are needed to reach that goal, and with 499,735 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines available this week, “We can get more than halfway of the distance left to get to our 2.5-million vaccination challenge and lift restrictions this week if everybody would go out and sign up.”
That would be almost a quadrupling of the state’s recent vaccination rate. Over the last three weeks, 125,000 to 130,000 Kentuckians were vaccinated each week.
In noting vaccination sites with many open slots, he pointed to the Christian County Health Department, which serves in a county that has state’s second- lowest rate of fully vaccinated people: 12.4%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Spencer County remains last, at 11.1%. Woodford County has the highest rate, 37%.
Beshear stressed that there are thousands of vaccine slots available in every region of the state. Click here to find a location near you. “Remember, we are in a race against these variants,” he said. “We have to vaccinate and as quickly as possible.”
Calling it a miracle, Beshear noted that vaccines have virtually eliminated Covid-related deaths in long-term care facilities. He added that deaths in all congregate settings, which include prisons, have dropped from 68% of the state’s total at one time to under 38%.
The governor reported only four new resident cases and six new staff cases in long-term care facilities, for a total of 48 active resident and 79 active staff cases. He reported no new deaths. So far, there have been 2,281 Covid-related deaths in long-term care.
Beshear reported 17 new deaths from the virus on Thursday, all of them from regular health-department reports and none from an ongoing audit of death certificates. That brings the total to 6,302.
The fatalities included two Barren County men, 40 and 61; a Bell County woman, 66; a Caldwell County woman, 49; a Clinton County woman, 83; a Cumberland County man, 89; A Garrard County man, 83; a Grayson County man, 70; a Henderson County woman, 73; a Jessamine County woman, 61; a Laurel County woman, 68; a Madison County man, 63; a Meade County woman, 68; a Mercer County woman, 85; a Muhlenberg County woman, 44; a Pike County man, 56; and a Whitley County woman, 83.
Gill Scott

Memorial: Today, Beshear honored the life of Gill Scott, who died from Covid-19 on March 26. Beshear said Scott was one of nine children and was born and raised in Adair County. He moved to Louisville as a teenager, where he met and married his wife of 60 years, Mary. Beshear said Scott loved his family, the outdoors and God.

“Remember, these are the souls that we lose right now in the fourth quarter in defeating this virus. If we let up, we lose somebody special,” Beshear said.
Based on CDC data that estimates the biweekly prevalence of variant cases among more than 40,000 genomic sequences done Jan. 3 to March 27, Becker’s Hospital Review reports that the proportion of the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, is 18.7 percent in Kentucky. It is the dominant variant in the U.S.
Using the CDC data tracker, Becker’s ranks Kentucky 19th in percentage of distributed vaccines that have been administered, 80.46%. It ranks Kentucky 21st for percentage of residents fully vaccinated, 24.87%.
In other pandemic news Thursday: 
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 149; Fayette, 54; Warren, 49; Daviess, 33; Henderson, 29; Boone, 24; Kenton, 20; Harlan, 18; Christian, 17; McCracken, 16; Hardin and Mason, 14; Bracken and Oldham, 13; Clark and Knox, 12; Pulaski, 11; and Jessamine, Logan and Whitley, 10.
  • Alex Acquisto of the Lexington Herald-Leader takes a deep dive into the myths and challenges faith leaders in Harlan County have dealt with as they work to get their followers vaccinated. “A lot of people are worried about control. That the mask mandate, the social distancing, right down to the vaccine [are ways] they think that the government is out to control them,” Sean Daniels, pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Cawood, told Acquisto. “People really don’t like to be told what to do.”
  • The Herald-Leader offers tips on to avoid scammers who are targeting Americans who need help paying for funeral expenses for loved ones who have died from Covid-19.
  • McClatchy News reports that a top Food and Drug Administration scientist has said that coronavirus vaccines should provide protection against Covid-19 for at least nine months, and a booster shot may become necessary after that.
  • Sarah Ladd of the Louisville Courier Journal writes about what the pause in Johnson & Johnson vaccine means for Kentucky.
  • University of Louisville researchers have received $8.6 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for coronavirus wastewater research, WDRB reports. Researchers are already testing wastewater for coronavirus in Jefferson County, which will help them estimate how many people in the neighborhoods being tested have the virus. “This could revolutionize the way we track and contain pandemics, and not just Covid-19,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, a U of L professor of medicine. “It gives us an invaluable tool that could offer a clearer view of where and how the virus spreads.”
  • The CDC told CNN that about 5,800 out of nearly 77 million people vaccinated for the coronavirus have contracted Covid-19 afterward. Of those, 396 have required hospitalization and 74 have died. CNN reports that the CDC will be looking for clues about who is most prone to become re-infected despite having been vaccinated. “Vaccine-breakthrough infections were reported among all people of all ages eligible for vaccination. However, a little over 40% of the infections were in people 60 or more years of age,” the CDC said. Questioned about Kentucky, Beshear said he did not have an exact number of “breakthrough” cases in the state, but said there had been “a couple.”
  • Click here for Thursday’s press release that includes an unemployment-insurance update, including information about the 13 regional career centers opening to in-person appointments, federal tax refunds, and the temporary shutdown for security reasons over last weekend.
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