Beshear decries pandemic politics, but says social media have exaggerated them; new-case rate falls for first time in 10 days

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

As measures of the pandemic in the state remained generally stable Sunday, Kentuckians heard Gov. Andy Beshear decry the politics of it, but also say that the politics have been exaggerated.

In a recorded interview on WKYT-TV‘s “Kentucky Newsmakers,” Beshear was asked if the political nature of the pandemic has surprised him. “It’s disappointed me,” he said. “A pandemic that’s killed 6,200 people isn’t and shouldn’t be political at all, and this virus doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican or independent . . . It tries to infect you and it tries to kill you.”

Still, Beshear said the politics of the pandemic have been exaggerated by social media, “and we don’t focus enough on the millions of people doing things right, the millions of people who have put all the politics aside. I can’t tell you how many times a day I run into somebody who says, ‘I didn’t vote for you, Andy, but I appreciate what you’re doing, and I’m with you.’

“That’s what a pandemic is supposed to be about, entirely beyond politics. It certainly pushed me there. The decisions I’ve made in this don’t have anything to do with Democrat, Republican or re-election or the rest. They just have to do with life and death.”

Host Bill Bryant asked the Democratic governor about criticism from Republican legislators that he had time to bid a no-bid contract for major vaccination centers. The state gave Wild Health of Lexington a deal to administer 300,000 doses of vaccine by June 30, at a potential cost of $23 million.

Beshear said quick action was needed to boost vaccinations in Western Kentucky, partly because vaccine supplies vary from week to week. “We are at war,” he said. “In the middle of a war, do you put your munitions out to bid, or do you get what it takes in each area of the battle?” He said one potential contractor “wanted a heck of a lot more; one wanted up-front costs; this was the one ready to go. It we waited three more weeks to have this large Western Kentucky presence then people there would lose out.”

Daily numbers: The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus in the last seven days rose slightly, to 3.48%, but the seven-day average of new cases declined by 13, to 610, with the report of 275 more cases.

The statewide rate of daily new cases over the last seven days is 12.24 per 100,000 residents, a decline of 0.3 from Saturday. In the previous nine days, the rate rose every day, from 9 to 12.54 per 100,000. The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s rate 32nd among the states.

Counties with rates more than double the state rate were mainly north and east of the Bluegrass: Bracken, 79.1; Lewis, 53.8; Wolfe, 43.9; Bath, 42.3; Morgan, 37.6; Mason, 36.8; Harlan, 30.2; Logan, 30; Powell, 27.7; and Menifee, 26.4.

“Like every other state we have now hit a plateau,” Beshear told Bryant, noting that some states are seeing a fourth surge in cases. “Our job to stop it requires two things: number one, wear your mask, keep doing things the right way; that stops the variants, too; but number two, get vaccinated. . . . If everybody will get vaccinated, we will not go through what Michigan and others have gone through. . . . Everybody out there who gets vaccinated gets us closer to that full football stadium.”

The state added eight more fatalities to its list of Covid-19 deaths, four each from health-department reports and the death-certificates audit. It does not issue itemized lists of deaths on weekends. The death toll is 6,338.

In other pandemic news Sunday:

  • Counties with more than five new cases were: Jefferson, 51; Fayette, 34; Kenton, 14; Bullitt, 8; McCracken, 8; Shelby, 7; Warren, 7; and Greenup, Mason and Pulaski, 6.
  • Kentucky hospitals reported 394 Covid-19 patients, 19 fewer than Saturday, with 98, five fewer, in intensive care and 46, one more, on ventilators. Only the Lake Cumberland hospital region reported more than 80% of its intensive-care beds occupied: 91%.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said in television interviews that he expects the pause in use of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be lifted this week. “I would be very surprised if we don’t have a resumption in some form by Friday,” he said.
  • Fauci said on CNN‘s “State of the Union” that Republican critics of public-health restrictions are working against themselves because more vaccination is needed to lift the restrictions. “It’s almost paradoxical that on the one hand they want to be relieved of the restrictions but on the other hand they don’t want to get vaccinated,” he told Dana Bash. “This has nothing to do with liberties, Dana. We’re talking about the fact that 560,000 people in our country have died, and we have 50, 60, 70,000 new infections a day.”
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