As most Covid-19 numbers in Kentucky continue to fall, Beshear ‘pauses’ weekly pandemic press conferences for second time

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

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

With almost every metric to measure the pandemic in Kentucky keeping on a steady decline, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that he was putting his weekly Covid-19 press conferences on a “pause.”

“While we still have some struggles, while this pandemic is still with us, things continue to move in the right direction and they are continuing to move at a regular pace,” Beshear said. “That means cases, positivity rates [are] all declining, as well as hospitalizations, those in the ICU and those on ventilators. Every metric is moving the right direction.”

Beshear stopped regular pandemic briefings last June, but resumed them after the highly contagious Omicron variant arrived. It caused the biggest surge of the pandemic.
“If I can go back in time and change a decision or a way to talk about things,” Beshear said, “I really would have talked about how this was going to be a war. None of us have lived through this before so we didn’t know. But I would have talked about how you don’t win a war in two weeks. That a war may take two years and that’s what it’s been. And this war will end when we beat the virus or it becomes fully endemic,” like influenza and cold viruses.

“We know so much more about the virus and how to fight it. In many ways, it has become a part of our daily lives,” he said. “If today is the last update we give, living with Covid is not ignoring Covid. It is having the information to be empowered to make the right decisions to protect ourselves.”

Beshear pointed to the largely green and yellow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map, updated last Thursday and Friday, that uses new coronavirus cases and Covid-19 hospitalizations and intensive-care cases to determine the risk that the virus poses in each U.S. county.
The map shows 32 Kentucky counties are red, signifying a high risk of infection and hospitalization, which the CDC says calls for wearing masks in indoor public spaces; 38 are yellow, signifying a medium risk; and 51 are green, indicating a low risk.

“This map is just one way to show how we are moving to a better place,” Beshear said, adding that he expects to see many more yellow and green counties in Kentucky next week.

The bad news is that Kentucky’s Covid-19 deaths, the pandemic’s lagging indicator, keep rising. The state attributed 283 more deaths to Covid-19 in the reporting week ended Sunday, up from 275 the previous week. Beshear said 13 of the deaths were of people under 49, and one was 25. Kentucky’s pandemic death toll is now 14,380.

The governor encouraged Kentuckians to  pray for families of Covid-19 victims, and encouraged them to get vaccinated to prevent more deaths. He said that even with more vaccinations given in the last week, this is the only metric going in the wrong direction.

Actually, Kentucky’s vaccination rate more than doubled in the last 10 days. The state averaged 3,662 doses per day last week, more than twice what the average was 10 days ago, when it bottomed out at 1,772 per day, according to CDC data presented by The Washington Post.

Beshear noted that some people continue to get their first dose. Of the 25,000-plus vaccinations last week, 6,459 were first shots, 8,045 were the second shot; and 10,809 were boosters.

Kentucky’s Covid-19 vaccination rates remain below national averages, with 65% of the state’s population having received at least one dose of a vaccine, 56% “fully vaccinated” and 43% of that eligible population with a booster shot.

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus in the past seven days is now 4.17%, the lowest this rate has been since July 2021.

In the week ended March 13, Kentucky reported 9,532 new coronavirus cases, down from 12,010 the week before. It was the seventh straight week this number has fallen.

Kentucky’s new-case rate has finally dropped out of the leaders in the The New York Times rankings; it is now 20th among the states. It had a 78% decline in the last 14 days, the second fastest decline among states.

However, the state still has many hot spots. The Times reports that Pike County has the highest rate of any county in the nation, with 175 cases per 100,000; the Nome Census Area in Alaska is first among counties and county equivalents, at 239/100K.

Many Kentucky counties are in top 50: Trigg, McCreary, Perry (6th, 7th and 8th); Wayne, Morgan, Taylor (12,13,14); Bath (21), Clinton (24), Pulaski, Adair, Green (28,29,30); Whitley (36), Breathitt (39), Montgomery (42) and Caldwell (48).

Kentucky hospitals reported 470 Covid-19 patients on Monday, with 95 in intensive care and 56 on mechanical ventilation. The Times ranks Kentucky’s hospitalization rate fifth in the nation, even though that rate has dropped 49% in the last 14 days.

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