Beshear says he’ll wait for full-week data on virus case numbers to determine need for more action; 7-day avg. rose 12% in a day

By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Gov. Andy Beshear reiterated Thursday that his administration will look at calendar-week coronavirus trends when making decisions about any additional actions to combat a possible resurgence of the virus, the prospect of which has been raised by two days of increases in the seven-day average of new cases.

For the second time this week, Beshear asserted that case numbers were declining when they were not. Wednesday’s report showed 351 new cases, raising the seven-day rolling average by 20, to 188 per day. That was the largest daily increase in more than two months, except on June 8, when hundreds of delayed cases were reported. The state reported 244 new cases Tuesday, raising the average to 168. Except on two days when it rose by one case, the average had declined every day for three weeks.

The state did not post a report Thursday, saying that the federal reporting system was not updated. The state Covid-19 website says a report will be posted Monday through Friday by 4:45 p.m. At about 1:15 p.m., Kentucky Health News pointed out to Beshear that Wednesday ‘s report showed a 12 percent increase in the seven-day average. The seven-day positive-test rate also increased Wednesday, to 1.92%.

Asked what sort of numbers would prompt additional action, Beshear said the state is not getting “real numbers” on Saturdays and Sundays, which means it takes several days into the week for the numbers to level out. For months, the state has used Monday-through-Sunday figures to define the pace of the pandemic.

Health Secretary Eric Friedlander noted that those numbers have declined for many weeks, and he expects next week’s numbers to be stable.

Beshear said the trend would have to be be “concerning enough” to take any additional actions, especially as vaccinations increase. In the past seven days, they have totaled 6 percent more than the previous seven days, when the daily average dropped below 10,000. It is now slightly above that.

Vaccinations have generally declined since mid-April, when the average was around 40,000 a day, the major exception being mid-June, with the June 4 announcement of drawings for big prizes for vaccinated people. The first was held Thursday; announcements are set Friday, after confirmation of eligibility.

Beshear also said the state must consider what it would ask of people who have done all they can to to protect themselves in order to protect those who have been unwilling to protect themselves with vaccination.

The drawings offer $1 million each for three residents who have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 15 education scholarships for children between the ages of 12 and 17 who have received at least one shot.

Beshear said Thursday “I am convinced” that the incentives have spurred interest among those who had not been vaccinated, and added that he expects that interest to increase after the state gives out the first round of prizes. The next two drawings will be held July 29 and Aug. 26, with announcements on July 30 and Aug. 27. Click here for more information.

Despite Beshear’s stated belief, vaccination numbers don’t indicate that the incentive has had a huge impact; 98,000 fewer Kentuckians have been vaccinated since the incentive was announced four weeks ago than in the four weeks preceding the announcement.

In the last four weeks, Friedlander said, almost 122,000 people have gotten a shot. In the four weeks prior to the announcement, going back to May 7, 220,000 had gotten a shot, according to data from the Lexington Herald-Leader‘s Coronavirus Tracker.

The state vaccine dashboard shows 2.19 million Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, which amounts to 49% of the total population, 60% of adults, and 83% of seniors.

“These are scientific miracles,” Friedlander said. “If we get vaccinated, we drive down these rates; we drive down hospitalizations. This is the most effective thing you can do. Get vaccinated. . . . It is the way we return to normal.”

State graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News; click on it to enlarge
Health experts say vaccination is becoming more important as the more contagious Delta variant spreads. Beshear said is scarier than earlier variants, but if you are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you are 88% safe against it. Friedlander urged unvaccinated Kentuckians to wear masks because they have no protection otherwise.
Vox, in an article that details why the Delta variant appears to be so dangerous, reports that in the U.S., it accounts for 20% of new cases and is on track to become dominant variant — and that the way to quash it is following public-health measures that many are tired of: vaccinations, masks, and social distancing.

Beshear pointed to research reported in The New York Times suggesting that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines may offer immunity for multiple years. The study did not include the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He said these findings are important, especially as scientists work to determine whether vaccinated people will need boosters.

The governor said vaccinated Kentuckians do not need to wear a mask in most situations, in keeping with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s guidance.

Team Kentucky All-Stars: Beshear recognized two high-school students for their efforts to get senior citizens vaccinated: Jacqueline Teague and Amelie Beck, of Louisville, who are co-founders of VaxConnectKY.

Beshear said they have helped nearly 1,000 seniors sign up for a vaccine appointment, planned a vaccine clinic for their school, and are using this platform to encourage students to sign up. He added that VaxConnectKY was recently recognized by Scientific American magazine and Prince Harry when Teague won the Diana Award named after Princess Diana.

Jobs: Beshear announced nine high-tech Kentucky companies will receive a total of $900,000 in state matching grants to support high-paying jobs and technology development, with several of them related to health, including:  Active Therapy Systems LLC in Nicholasville, a project that involves physical therapies for people with Parkinson’s disease; Adelphi Technology LLC in Bowling Green, which is developing a compact gas analyzer that has a broad range of potential applications, including the detection of bacterial infections from the air near a wound; HealthTech Solutions Inc. OmniLife in Lexington, which will address the need for an efficient communications software technology for organ procurement organizations and transplant centers;  Kentucky Imaging Technologies LLC in Louisville , which is working to combat colorectal cancer by developing a system that more accurately detects polyps in a patient’s colon; MEMStim LLC in Louisville, which is working on a project that involves cochlear implants; and Wild Dog Physics LLC in Lexington, which is working on a project that involves improved cancer care.

Educational supports: Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman awarded $15 million in grants to 150 local Family Resource and Youth Service Centers from the second round of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund 2. The money is to be used for early childhood education, childcare and family crisis and mental health counseling. Coleman said the need for these services is great, noting that they had received 215 applications for this grant.

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