Beshear and Dr. Stack: It’s not so much what they say, it’s what you say, to help Ky. reach vaccination goal and lift restrictions

Kentucky Health News chart from state Department for Public Health data

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

With the pace of vaccinations slowing, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday that reaching his 2.5 million goal to lift most business-capacity restrictions will require effort and encouragement by individual Kentuckians to others, not just from the governor and his commissioner of public health.

“This has to be an us,” Beshear said near the end of his regular pandemic news briefing. “One doctor to one patient, one friend to one friend.”

Earlier, he said, “We’ve always believed in personal responsibility in this state. And that’s how we have to be viewing this vaccination effort. We really need everybody to get informed. If you actually read this information, read the science, you will come to the conclusion that this thing can protect you,  the vaccine, and it is safe and effective.

He added, “We’ll continue to do everything we can to encourage and to provide access. And to everybody out there, we need you to be our advocates. Talk to those around you.”

Beshear has said that when 2.5 million Kentuckians get a vaccine, he will lift all capacity restrictions on businesses and activities up to 1,000 people. So far, about 1.7 million Kentuckians have received at least one dose, leaving a gap of 800,000, which at current rates would take until early July to close.

He said the vaccines “have proven to be some of the most effective vaccines in human history. They basically eliminated death and they’ve basically eliminated major sickness and they have done it even in our most vulnerable populations,” he said.

Health Commissioner Steven Stack reinforced Beshear’s message.

“If you remain uncertain, it is very important that you are informed,” he said. “This is your choice. This is your choice to accept vaccination to protect yourselves and to protect your loved ones. Please be informed. Talk to people you trust and have confidence in; talk to your doctors, your primary care providers; ask them your questions, address them to your level of comfort. And then, please, I hope you’ll consider getting vaccinated so we can all move on with our lives.”

Beshear said he has asked for the help of local officials and business leaders to encourage their people to get vaccinated, and will be talking to “a large number of businesses” tomorrow.

He said the state has over 550,000 doses available, with no wait, for anyone 16 and over. Visit to find a list of sites and openings.

Dept. for Public Health table lists variants by county.

One of the most urgent reasons to get vaccinated is to slow the spread of more contagious variants of the virus. Beshear said Kentucky has 270 confirmed cases of the “variants of concern” and 150 are the highly contagious B.1.1.7. variant, which originated in the United Kingdom and is now dominant in the U.S.

Beshear pointed out that this variant is largely affecting people between the ages of 16 and 49. “So please don’t be casual,” he said. “With these out there with the numbers you see and how they’re growing, we need you to get vaccinated.”
Stack noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is reviewing data on the six rare cases of blood-clotting disorder in 7 million people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He said “most of us” expect the CDC to follow the lead of European health officials and give the green light for the vaccine.
Europe decided that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. Stack, a physician, put the risk into context, noting that if it is determined that these rare blood clots are linked to the vaccine, the risk of that happening is one in a million, and the risk of dying from Covid-19 is about 1 in 550 nationwide and 1 in 708 in Kentucky.

“So in this context, where over 3 million people have died internationally, over 566,000 Americans have died, and over 6,300 Kentuckians have died from Covid, vaccines are by relative comparison, incredibly safe,” he said. “And they are our path out of this pandemic, with the least harm caused.”

CDC study and vaccine resistance: Beshear and Stack said the most important lesson from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of an outbreak of a more contagious variant in a Kentucky nursing home is to get a shot, since the study found that vaccines protected both residents and staff.

Asked by Kentucky Health News if the state had considered requiring vaccines for long-term care staff or if they had asked the long-term care companies to do so, Beshear said they had encouraged the long-term care associations to get people vaccinated, but was not sure if they had reached out to any companies.

He said the state would not mandate any Covid-19 vaccinations. “There are some legal concerns with making it mandatory,” he said, adding later, “We’re not going to make getting a vaccine mandatory in Kentucky. And I don’t think that would help. You see what’s going on out there just like I do, and making it mandatory, we might actually get less people getting it than it is right now.

“We’ve got a complicated country right now, where we’ve got people believing some of the craziest things from the internet that we could ever imagine. That makes it hard to ultimately bring people around and it’s going to take us listening and being patient, being compassionate, not getting frustrated and there’s no easy solution.”
Daily numbers: Beshear said new cases and the state’s positive-test rate continue to be on plateaus. He reported 628 new cases on Thursday, lowering the state’s seven-day rolling average by 19, to 549.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days inched down again, to 3.36%, down .03 from Wednesday. That’s the lowest this rate has been in eight days.
The state’s daily average of new cases over the last seven days dropped to 10.89 per 100,000 residents. The New York Times ranks Kentucky 33rd among the states for this measure. The national rate is 19 per 100,000.
Counties with rates more than double the statewide rate were Lewis, 44.1; Morgan, 36.5;  Powell, 35.8;  Bath, 35.4; Bracken, 34.4; Wolfe, 31.9; Mason, 28.5; Montgomery, 25.4; Logan, 23.2; Hancock, 22.9; and Menifee, 22.
There were 440 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in Kentucky on Thursday (up 23 from yesterday); 121 of them in intensive care (up eight); and 55 of those on a ventilator (up three).
The Lake Cumberland hospital readiness region and the easternmost region, from Pike to Lee counties, are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds: 91% and 82%, respectively.
Beshear announced eight more Covid-19 deaths, five from regular health-department reports and three of from an ongoing audit of death certificates.
“This is still killing people, folks,” said Beshear. “We are not out of it yet.”
All the regularly reported deaths occurred in April: a Boone County man, 70; a Jefferson County man, 76; a Kenton County man, 69; a Meade County woman, 78; and a Pike County man, 58. All audit deaths were in December: a Campbell County man, 57; a Graves County man, 79; and a Marshall County man, 85.

In other pandemic news Thursday: 

  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 127; Fayette, 52; Boone, 24; Warren, 22; Daviess, 20; McCracken, 19; Hopkins, 14; Bullitt, 12; Kenton and Pulaski, 11; Clark, Floyd and Lewis, 10.
  • The state reported five new cases in long-term-care staff, bringing the number of active cases to 84 staff; none were reported in residents, who have 50 active cases. Two of the audited deaths were attributed to long-term care, bringing that total to 2,283.
  • The University of Kentucky has had the 18th largest number of cases among American universities, 4,036, according to The New York Times. The University of Tennessee in Knoxville is 34th, with 2,721; the University of Cincinnati is 55th, with 2,067; and the University of Louisville is 57th, with 2,052.
  • Beshear said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will open two new regional vaccination sites in Eastern and Western Kentucky, to be jointly announced Friday.
  • Beshear said 70% of the state’s prison inmates had been vaccinated before the J&J vaccine was paused and he is awaiting federal guidance on it. He said if there is a further pause, or if inmates are concerned about the vaccine, the state will consider using the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. He has said that 80% of the inmates need to be vaccinated before in-person visitation can resume.
  • Beshear announced that pandemic news briefings will be on Mondays at 4 p.m. and Thursdays at noon, rather than 4 p.m.
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