Beshear asks vaccinated Kentuckians to talk to their unvaccinated friends about getting immunized; virus is ‘spreading like wildfire’

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

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

In a press conference focused on getting Kentuckians vaccinated for the coronavirus, Gov. Andy Beshear made a special plea for those who are vaccinated to talk to others about their experience, again acknowledging that anyone who might listen to him has already gotten their immunization.

“I need every single Kentuckian who’s gotten vaccinated . . .  to talk to somebody who hasn’t because your friends, your loved ones are more at risk than they have ever been,” Beshear said Monday. ” So if you haven’t had that tough conversation yet, and I get why you might not have, I really need you to now because you might be the only person that they trust, that they will listen to. And you might be the only person that can break through and get them that protection.”

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that friends, family and health-care providers have the most influence in getting vaccine-hesitant individuals to get vaccinated.

Carter County (Wikipedia map)

Schools: Monday was the first day of school for many Kentucky students, and schools are the other big battleground of the pandemic. The Carter County School District, one of many that decided not to require masks, delayed classes due to a large number of infected school-age children.

Asked about that, Beshear said he wasn’t sure what parents were supposed to do with that information and “I really hope smarter heads prevail.”

He said Kentucky’s guidance follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and calls on schools to require masking for all students, staff and visitors, regardless of their vaccination status. He said schools that do not follow this guidance “are doing it in contradiction of all public-health advice.”

CDC map shows agency’s county-level infection rates.

The latest research from the CDC says vaccinated people are about as capable of getting and transmitting the Delta variant of the virus as unvaccinated people are. That’s what prompted the new guidance to wear masks indoors in areas where infection is substantial or high, which includes almost every county in Kentucky.

Mandates: Asked about restoring the mask mandate he lifted in June, Beshear said would not take that possibility off the table. He said things that would influence him would be virus-transmission rates and hospital capacity.

“Again, if we just get vaccinated, we can tear off the masks and go back to our regular lives,” he said.

He also said the state is not considering any vaccination mandate. He asked, “Do you think one would work? When people have dug their heels in already in the face of all the information? We’ve got to think about effectiveness.. . . What makes something effective? It’s the step that you’re taking times the number of people who will follow it.”

Beshear and Health Secretary Eric Friedlander announced that universal masking will be required in all state-run health facilities, including veterans’ nursing homes, and all unvaccinated staff in the facilities will be required to be tested at least twice a week.

Daily numbers: The state reported 1,052 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, with 231 of them in those 18 and under. That brings the seven-day rolling average up to 1,394, more than double what it was 11 days ago.

Kentucky hospitals reported 796 Covid-19 patients; 250 of them in intensive care units; and 98 of those on a ventilator. Those figures are also doubling every 11 to 12 days.

Beshear said he was not worried about the increase because hospital capacity remains stable, but is concerned with how sick the Covid-19 patients are.

Dept. for Public Health graph

The positive-test rate for Kentuckians has risen for 38 straight days, reaching 9.77% today.

From March through July, 94% of new coronavirus cases, 91.5% of Covid-19 hospitalizations and 88.7% of Covid-related deaths were Kentuckians who were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.

Beshear stressed that fully vaccinated people are protected against severe illness and death, and he is asking vaccinated people to wear masks because of the latest research showing they can spread the virus.

Two of the state’s 10 hospital readiness regions were using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds. The easternmost region, from Lee to Pike counties, was at 85%, with 24% of ICU beds used by Covid-19 patients; Lake Cumberland, was at 87%, with 29% of ICU beds used by Covid-19 patients.

The statewide rate of daily new cases over the last seven days is 29.64 per 100,000 residents. Counties with double that rate areClay, 104.8; Jackson, 89.0; Laurel, 70.5; Floyd, 69.4; Hart, 68.3; Letcher, 61.6; and Muhlenberg, 59.7. Of the state’s 120 counties, 74 are considered to have what the state calls a “critical” level of virus transmission. The CDC’s critical level is lower than the state’s.

And while all of these numbers are concerning, Beshear stressed that the difference between now and the beginning of the pandemic, when the state took more extreme measures to slow the virus, is the vaccines.

The state reported five Covid-19 deaths Monday, bringing the toll to 7,348.

Dept. for Public Health graph shows that unvaccinated Kentuckians
are five times as likely to get infected as their vaccinated neighbors.

Kentucky has not seen a spike in vaccinations like a few states, but Beshear said the trend is going in the right direction. He said more than 40,000 residents of the state got vaccinated last week, which was half the number vaccinated in the month prior to that.”The Delta variant is spreading like wildfire,” he said. “If you are unvaccinated, you are at significant risk. Please, go get vaccinated.”

Kentuckians under 40 continue to have vaccination rates under 50%, with 18-to-29-year-olds at 37%. “That’s far, far too low,” said Beshear. “This Delta variant is coming for you.”

Statewide, 52% of the state’s total population has received at least one dose of a vaccine and 63% of adults have.

Beshear gave a shout-out to Kentucky Health News Editor-Publisher Al Cross for his request that local news media and medical professionals collaborate to persuade Kentuckians to get a shot.

“There is no more immediately pressing public interest in this country or this state than persuading people to get vaccinated,” Cross wrote in his weekly Kentucky Health News update to news media.

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