Agriculture Commissioner Quarles calls on Beshear to set a date to reopen the state and ditch his goal of 2.5 million vaccinations

County-level map of Kentucky with average daily new coronavirus cases over the last seven days

State Dept. for Public Health map, relabeled by Ky. Health News; for a larger version click on it.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
As Gov. Andy Beshear continues to call for a total 2.5 million Kentuckians to get their first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, using it as the marker for when he will lift all capacity restrictions on most businesses, one state official says it’s time to ditch that plan and simply set a date to reopen the state.
“It is unrealistic to think that this governor is going to reopen the state and lift restrictions immediately,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles writes in an op-ed. “That’s why I am challenging the governor to set a full reopening date to give our people certainty and the ability to plan for a responsible reopening.”
Beshear has said that getting 2.5 million Kentuckians is not a random number when it comes to lifting capacity restrictions. He has also noted that as Kentucky moves toward this goal he is willing to incrementally lift some restrictions, as he has already done, he said after Quarles’s statements.
“Because so many Kentuckians have rolled up their sleeves for these vaccines, these shots of hope, we’ve been able to increase capacity in most businesses to 60% and return child care classrooms to their traditional sizes,” Beshear said in a news release Wednesday. “We’ve been able to shorten and simplify Healthy at Work minimum requirements. We’ve been able to lift the mask mandate for smaller, outdoor events. That’s all because of you. And as more Kentuckians get vaccinated, it will be safer to lift even more restrictions.”
Beshear reported 1,837,229 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, or 41% of the population. Of those, 2,053 were given Tuesday, leaving 662,708 more Kentuckians needing a first shot to reach the governor’s 2.5 million goal.
Quarles, a Republican, is a leading prospect for the party’s nominee to face Beshear in the 2023 election for governor. He says it’s time for Beshear to follow the direction of GOP governors in Tennessee and Florida who have fully re-opened their states, saying Beshear “is holding Kentucky’s economic engine hostage.”
Noting some estimates that it could be August before the state meets Beshear’s goal, he calls the governor’s plan to wait until 2.5 million first doses are given “absolutely unacceptable,” adding, “The longer Kentucky refuses to open up, the longer we will lose jobs and workers to other states.”
Daily numbers: As the political debate heats up, so does the the state’s positive-test rate, a leading indicator of cases to come. The share of Kentuckians who tested positive for the virus in the past seven days is 3.57%, up for the seventh consecutive day.

Beshear announced 710 new cases on Wednesday, lowering the seven-day rolling average by 5, to 619. The daily report says nearly 25% of the new cases, or 176, were in people 18 and younger.
The latest American Academy of Pediatrics‘ Children and Covid-19 State Data report said there was a 4% increase in the number of child Covid-19 cases in the U.S. April 15-29, for a total of 151,535 more new cases. In Kentucky, 15.1% of cases have been in people under the age of 19, says the report.
The statewide rate of daily new cases over the last seven days is 11.45 cases per 100,000 residents.  The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s rate 24th among the states.
Counties with rates double the statewide rate were Powell, 68.2; Robertson, 47.4; Hickman, 39.1; Lewis, 38.7; Bath, 34.3; Simpson, 29.2; Menifee, 28.6; Montgomery, 26.4; and Mason, 23.4.
Kentucky hospitals reported 420 patients with Covid-19, down 14 from yesterday; 111 in intensive care (up 9); and 46 of those on a ventilator (down 2).
The Lake Cumberland hospital readiness region is using right at 80% of its intensive-care beds, with 13.3% of beds used for Covid-19 patients. No other region is above 80%.

The state reported 10 more Covid-19 deaths, all of them from regular health-department reports. That brings the death toll to 6,542.
The fatalities were a Henderson County woman, 98; a Jefferson County woman, 52; a Lawrence County woman, 74; a Livingston County woman, 49; a Lyon County man, 77; a Mason County woman, 84; a Nelson County woman, 84; a Nelson County man, 81; a Pike County man, 65; and a Pulaski County woman, 68.
In other pandemic news Wednesday:
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 116; Fayette, 53; Oldham, 31; Montgomery, 25; Daviess, 21; Clark, 20; Boone, 17; Warren, 16; Jessamine and Kenton, 15; Franklin and Henderson, 13; Floyd, Laurel, McCracken, Shelby and Whitley, 12; Grayson and Madison, 11; Boyd, Letcher, Powell and Scott, 10.
  • University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service offices are partnering with local, state and federal agencies to serve as host sites for coronavirus vaccine clinics, Katie Pratt reports for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.  The federally operated sites opened the last week of April at the Henderson and Laurel county extension offices. The walk-in clinics will be open for the next six to eight weeks, and between the two of them can administer 7,000 vaccines each week. The sites also serve as a base for mobile vaccination units. Pratt reports extension offices in Breckinridge, Washington, Owen, Boyle and Knox counties have worked with local hospitals, health departments and community partners to serve as vaccination sites for their communities.
  • People may now get Covid-19 vaccines at most CVS pharmacies without an appointment, including 76 in Kentucky, Deborah Yetter reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. WDRB reports that Walmart and Sam’s Club are also offering walk-up vaccine clinics at their pharmacies.
  • The University of Louisville continues to study the long-term effects of Covid-19 and welcomes anyone over 18 who has had the virus to participate, WDRB reports. The research will focus on heart and lung function.
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