A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beshear says restrictions have resulted in ‘significant decline’ in coronavirus cases over several weeks

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Gov. Andy Beshear noted a several week drop in new COVID-19 cases on Monday and a schedule for the next round of vaccinations was also released.

“There was a significant decline last week and four weeks in a row. Last week was the lowest we have seen since November 9,” he said during a virtual press briefing from the Capitol. “What it shows is that we have certainly stopped the exponential growth of the third wave, and I believe that now we have not only plateaued, but we are starting to see cases decrease.

“I think it’s safe to say, actually it’s certain to say, that the steps we took, the temporary closure of indoor dining and bars, the restrictions on gatherings to make it very small, only two households, have made a real difference … even the move that we had to make with regards to schools.”

Gov. Andy Beshear says restrictions have led to a reduction in coronavirus cases in Kentucky. (YouTube screen capture from Kentucky Today)

There were 1,455 new cases reported to state public health officials on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 258,517, since the first positive case of the coronavirus on March 6 in Harrison County. While Mondays normally see lower numbers due to labs closed on the weekend, the four-day holiday may also mean a jump with Tuesday and Wednesday cases.

Jefferson, with 225 new cases, was the only county over 100. The rest of the top ten were Kenton 83, Warren 52, Pulaski 51, Boone and Boyle had 49, Fayette 47, Marshall 40, Henderson 39, and Mercer 39.

There were also eight more deaths reported on Monday. They included a 92-year-old man from Bath County, a 74-year-old woman from Grayson County; a 64-year-old woman from Henderson County; three men, ages 41,67 and 79, along with a 93-year-old woman, all from Jefferson County; and an 80-year-old woman from Madison County. 2,563 Kentuckians have now lost their lives to COVID-19.

“To give you another idea of why we prioritize long-term care facilities,” Beshear stated, “only two of the individuals today that we lost were outside of long-term care.”

With a limited supply of vaccine on hand, 202.650 doses through the end of the year, the state has had to develop a priority plan for its distribution.

The governor and Dr. Steven Stack, State Public Health Commissioner, said the next priority group (Phase 1b) for vaccination will be Kentuckians who are at least 70 years old, as well as first responders and educators.

Depending on the vaccine distribution schedule, Phase 1b could begin as early as Feb. 1, plus or minus a week.

The governor said 40 additional sites will receive vaccine doses for the first time this week, for frontline healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff.

“Remember, this vaccine rollout is, I think, one of the toughest and largest logistics challenges we’ve seen since World War II,” Beshear said. “It’s not going to be clean the entire time, we’re building the airplane while we’re flying it, but right now, we believe we’ve got the right plan in the right way to distribute this vaccine equitably all across the state.”

“In Kentucky, we are going to include people who are 70 and older, said Dr. Stack. “That’s five years younger than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended. We believe here, because we have such a disproportionate burden of death in this population, we want to make the vaccine available as quickly as possible. We are also going to include first responders who haven’t been vaccinated in Phase 1a already, as well as K-12 school personnel.”

Dr. Stack clarified that Phase 1a includes all health care personnel in clinical settings, including Kentuckians who work in environmental services, front-line operations, interpretation services, dental care and home-based health care staff. He estimated that there are at least 200,000 Kentuckians included in this category.

The number of Kentuckians has also declined and stood at 1,552 on Monday. Of them, 411 were in the ICU and 217 on a ventilator.

The state’s positivity rate has now fallen below the eight percent mark and was reported to be 7.97%, based on a seven-day rolling average.

To view the full daily COVID-19 report for Kentucky, which includes such information as the red zone counties and red zone recommendations, testing locations, the weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky, details on holiday gathering guidance, school reopening and more, go to kycovid19.ky.gov.

Gov. Beshear’s final scheduled press briefing for the week will be at 4 Tuesday afternoon. It can be viewed live on his Facebook and YouTube pages.

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