As coronavirus infection rates in Kentucky kept inching up, Gov. Andy Beshear kept urging Kentuckians to get a Covid-19 vaccine or a booster and to do it before Thanksgiving: Thursday, Nov. 25.
Asked at a news conference if he expects a post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus cases, Beshear said, “I think it is certainly possible, maybe even likely, but it is entirely avoidable.”
To get more shots in arms, Beshear signed an executive order Wednesday to allow all Kentucky adults to get a booster, with no restrictions. The federal government is expected to soon follow suit.
“We have more tools approaching Thanksgiving than ever before, and more people eligible,” Beshear said. He said vaccinated Kentuckians should get a booster because there has been an increase in hospitalizations among people who are fully vaccinated, because initial immunizations are waning.
Health Commissioner Steven Stack said in an interview this week, “Waning immunity is a real thing and it does appear that after six months, there is a drop off for some of the protection,” and that getting a booster dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine restores 95% protection.
But Stack also told Kentucky Health News that there are more “breakthrough” cases among the vaccinated partly because more people are getting vaccinated, and because the Delta variant of the virus is so strong.
Between March 1 and Nov. 17, 83.6% of Covid-19 cases, 83.6% of Covid-19 hospitalizations, and 84.4% of Covid-19 deaths have been among Kentuckians who are either not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated. In July, as the Delta variant took hold, these numbers were much higher with 94% of new cases, 91.5% of hospitalizations, and 88.7% of deaths among this group.
Beshear urged Kentuckians to have some “immediacy” about getting a booster and to get it before Thanksgiving “to be as protected as you need to be.”
Beshear said he had heard that some people who tried to get a booster have been turned away, one reason being that some of the larger pharmacy chains are following their corporate instructions, which likely line up with federal guidelines. He advised Kentuckians to call before they go and to also make sure they are answering the questions correctly because 80% of Kentuckians should qualify for a booster even under the federal rules.
So far, 446,698 Kentuckians have gotten a booster and 2.6 million have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Beshear said 63% of all eligible Kentuckians, 5 and older, have received at least one dose.
Stack told Kentucky Health News that state officials are still hoping that trusted community leaders will keep reminding their neighbors of the need for vaccination. He and Beshear were on a call with 121 county judge-executives and mayors Wednesday.
Asked how many of those officials are actively using their voice to promote vaccination, Beshear said he did not ask them about that, but thinks many are.
“I think there are times where all of us, as leaders or as anybody out there, get tired or get numb, want to think about something else, want to talk about something else,” he said. “But how critical it is — whether it’s local or regional, or state leadership — to keep it up. I know people are tired of hearing me talk about Covid, and I wish I didn’t need to anymore. But it is still here. It is still deadly. It is not done with us so we can’t be done with it.”
Stack said people who have chosen to not get vaccinated “are only going to accept that message from people that they personally trust and respect.”
Daily numbers: Kentucky reported 1,855 new coronavirus cases Thursday, raising the seven-day rolling average by 26, to 1,457. That’s a rise of 1.8%. Of Thursday’s new cases, 27% are in people 18 and younger.
The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus in the past seven days is 6.18%, which is down a bit from Wednesday’s average of 6.24%.
The seven-day infection rate is 27.93 daily cases per 100,000 residents, virtually the same as Wednesday. Counties with rates more than double that rate are Robertson, 101.7; Magoffin, 101; Breckinridge, 82.3; Bourbon, 70; Cumberland, 67.0; Jackson, 57.9; Powell, 57.8; Monroe, 57.7; and Bath; 57.1.
Only one Kentucky county is in yellow on the state infection map, for those with 1 to 10 daily cases per 100,000, considered to be a moderate spread of transmission. That is Lee County, with 7.7 cases per 100,000. The rest of the counties have either substantial (orange) or high (red) rates of transmission.
The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate 26th among states and says it has increased 18% in the last 14 days.
Kentucky hospitals reported 750 Covid-19 patients, seven fewer than Wednesday; 195 of them in intensive care (down 5); and 100 on mechanical ventilation (unchanged).
Eight of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using more than 80% of their intensive-care beds, with five over 90%. Northern Kentucky has the highest rate, at 97.5%, with 18.8% of ICU beds used by Covid-19 patients.
Beshear said the best way to ensure that Covid-19 hospitalizations don’t tick up is for people to get vaccinated or boosted. He said he is watching the hospital and intensive-care unit numbers to see if they have plateaued or if they are going up.
The state reported 40 more Covid-19 deaths, raising the pandemic death toll to 10,394. The state is averaging about 36 reported deaths over the last seven days and the last 14 days; death reports can be delayed for weeks because of the state’s confirmation process.