Beshear defends his re-opening plans, saying, ‘We are doing it right’; state ordered 10% less vaccine this week than it could have

Quarles and Beshear
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Under pressure from some Republicans to lift all pandemic restrictions or to set a date to do so, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear issued an op-ed Friday laying out why he’s sticking to his plan, and he continued that theme in his regular weekday press release about the coronavirus.
“Our economy is heating up. We are doing it right – safely and sustainably,” Beshear said in the release. “We cannot give up now. We are picking up economic momentum while putting the health and safety of our people first. We are lifting more restrictions each month as we get more folks vaccinated, open our schools and protect our neighbors from this virus that has already killed more than 6,500 Kentuckians.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell declined to join the calls of some fellow Republicans, such as Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, for Beshear to lift all pandemic restrictions or set a date for doing so.
Mitch McConnell
McConnell in Scottsville (BG Daily News photo)

The Bowling Green Daily News reports from Scottsville, “When asked for his opinion on when Covid-19 restrictions should be lifted in Kentucky, McConnell said the decision is up to Gov. Andy Beshear and that he has made a habit of not second-guessing the governor.”

Beshear has often praised McConnell’s efforts to encourage Kentuckians to get vaccinated as he tours the state, even calling out people in his own party to do so. He did so Thursday in Allen County, where infections have been higher than average and vaccinations lower than average in the last month.

“There are a lot of people who still believe there are still some safety problem with [vaccines], which there isn’t,” McConnell said, according to the Daily News. “I think it’s important to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated, and let’s try to get this disease all the way totally into the end zone.”

Vaccination rates continue to slow across the state, resulting in the state ordering less vaccine from the federal government than it could have. Cabinet for Health and Family Services data show that vaccine demand has declined since mid-April, and that on May 5, the state ordered 10% less than its allocation.
Daily numbers: The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is 3.5%, virtually the same as Thursday’s 3.51%.
Beshear reported 638 new cases of the virus Friday, 158 under the age of 19. That lowered the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases by 12, to 587 per day.
The statewide rate of daily new cases over the last seven days is 11.24 cases per 100,000 residents, down .17 from yesterday. Kentucky’s rate is 23rd among the states, according to The New York Times. 
Counties with rates more than double the statewide rate were Powell, 63.6; Montgomery, 41.6; Hickman, 35.9; Robertson, 33.9; Lewis, 32.3; Bath, 29.7; Menifee, 26.4; Wolfe, 25.9; Shelby, 25.9; and Simpson, 24.6.
Kentucky hospitals reported 412 Covid-19 patients, four more than Thursday, with 106 of them in intensive care (down 7) and 52 of those on a ventilator (up 3).
The Lake Cumberland hospital-readiness region remains the only one out of 10 that is using 80% of its intensive-care-unit beds, at 87%, but only 16% of the ICU beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.
The state reported 11 more Covid-19 deaths, 10 from regular health department reports and one from the ongoing audit of death certificates. The death toll is now 6,559.
The regularly reported  fatalities were a Breathitt County woman, 55; a Fayette County woman, 89; a Floyd County woman, 89; a Jefferson County woman, 74; a Jefferson County man, 69; a Kenton County woman, 84; a Laurel County man, 77; a Pulaski County man, 69; a Scott County man, 71; and a Wayne County woman, 76. The audit death was a Jefferson County woman, 86 ,who died in December.
In other pandemic news Friday: 
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases are Jefferson, 124; Pulaski, 25; Fayette, 24; Montgomery, 23; Warren, 19; Daviess, Jessamine, Oldham and Taylor, 14; Hardin, 13; Fleming, Kenton, Powell and Scott, 12; Bath, Bullitt, Pike and Shelby, 11; and Greenup, 10.
  • The global death toll from Covid-19 is twice as high as official estimates, and the U.S. figure is 38 percent higher, says an analysis from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. It estimates that 905,000 Americans have died due to the disease. Experts believe the unreported cases and deaths are largely due to overwhelmed health care systems and insufficient testing, reports Helen Branswell of Stat.
  • Real-world data show the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is highly effective against two variants of concern. Based on 385,000 vaccine recipients in Qatar, it’s 90% percent effective at preventing infections from the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K. and 75% effective against B.1.351, first identified in South Africa. B.1.1.7 is rapidly becoming the dominant strain around the world, but B.1.351 is thought to be the most threatening variant for vaccine protection, The Washington Post reports. Even so, the vaccine is still highly effective, especially at preventing severe cases or death. The study also emphasized the importance of getting both doses of the vaccine; one dose was only 30% effective against B.1.1.7 and 17% effective against B.1.351.
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