Covid-19 levels stay low; memorial expected to be finished soon; FDA approves new booster, gives new guidance on vaccination

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The state and federal Covid-19 reports remain good this week, but Kentuckians are still dying from the disease. Over the last four weeks, the state has attributed an average of 53 deaths a week to Covid-19.

Gov. Andy Beshear said at his weekly news conference Thursday that the memorial to honor the thousands of Kentuckians who have died in the pandemic, with a sculpture being created by Kentucky artist Amanda Matthews, is being installed and is expected to be finished this spring.

“While we have reached better days in our fight against the pandemic, we will not forget those that have been lost, over 18,000 of our loved ones. . . . We want to make sure that we are truly creating a type of memorial that remembers this time, gives people a place to grieve, but also shows the heroism that Kentuckians have shown,” Beshear  said.

Matthews, of Lexington, was chosen by a committee made up of families who had lost someone to the virus. She told Amber Philpott of Lexington’s WKYT-TV, “The reason for creating something like this is to memorialize a difficult time in history. Memorialize lives lost way too soon, but also to show the strength of communities when they stick together.”

Her design, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” is a three-dimensional representation of the state seal and motto, Philpott reports. The memorial, which was paid for by the Team Kentucky Covid-19 Memorial Fund, will be placed in Monument Park, in the northwest quadrant of the Capitol grounds.

Weekly Covid-19 reports

The latest weekly report from the state Department for Public Health showed there were 2,264 new cases of the coronavirus in Kentucky last week, or 323 cases per day. That’s a 20.5 percent drop from the previous week’s 2,848 cases.

The state’s new case-rate dropped to 3.93 cases per 100,000, from 4.28 the week before. The top 10 counties were Breathitt, 14.7 cases per 100,000 residents; Metcalfe, 12.77; Green, 10.45; Whitley, 8.67; Nelson, 8.65; Clinton, 8.39; Greenup, 8.14; Powell, 8.09; Butler, 7.76; and Mason, 7.53.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk map, based on new cases and hospital numbers, shows only two of the state’s 120 counties, Breathitt and Letcher, at medium risk from Covid-19. Medium-risk counties are shown in yellow and the 118 counties at low risk are shown in green. Last week, Letcher County had a high rsk of Covid-19 and was the only Kentucky county not in green on the map.

The CDC also provides a community-level transmission map, largely used by health-care facilities and researchers, that shows the level of virus in each county, at one of four levels. The latest map shows 15 counties with a low level of transmission and 74 with a medium level; the rest are either substantial or high. The state says residents should take their guidance from the other map.

Last week, Kentucky attributed 51 more deaths to Covid-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 18,455.

FDA recommends a second booster for some

The best way to protect yourself from severe illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19 is to get vaccinated and boosted.

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a second Omicron booster, also referred to as the bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, for immunocompromised people and people over the age of 65.

The FDA says people who are over 65 qualify for the second booster if they got their initial bivalent dose at least four months ago and immunocompromised people can get another bivalent dose at least two months after their initial bivalent shot. Further, the FDA says that additional doses could be warranted for immunocompromised people at the discretion of their health care provider.

For young kids (ages 6 months through 4 years) who are immunocompromised, however, eligibility for additional doses will depend on the vaccine they previously received, the agency said.

The new guidance also says that a single dose of a bivalent vaccine will suffice as initial vaccination for unvaccinated adults, instead of the two doses of the original vaccine.

Further, anyone who has not yet been boosted with the bivalent vaccine is eligible for a single dose of it. If you’ve already received the bivalent booster and you are not over 65 or immunosuppressed, you do not qualify for a second booster.

“The FDA intends to make decisions about future vaccination after receiving recommendations on the fall strain composition at an FDA advisory committee in June,” says the agency.

The new recommendations also set new rules for children, depending on their age and their vaccine history.
“At this stage of the pandemic, data support simplifying the use of the authorized mRNA bivalent Covid-19 vaccines and the agency believes that this approach will help encourage future vaccination,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a news release.

He added, “Covid-19 continues to be a very real risk for many people, and we encourage individuals to consider staying current with vaccination, including with a bivalent Covid-19 vaccine. The available data continue to demonstrate that vaccines prevent the most serious outcomes of Covid-19, which are severe illness, hospitalization, and death.”

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