LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Sounding a optimistic note on several fronts, including the likely arrival of the first doses of national coronavirus vaccines, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear urged residents Monday to make a “final push” to adhere to health guidelines.
Beshear also welcomed back Virginia Moore, the executive director of the Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, who became a household fixture signing for Beshear’s daily briefings until she was diagnosed with cancer two months ago. After surgery and treatment, she is now cancer free and returned to her familiar post signing Monday.
Moore, whose parents are both deaf, has said doctors at U of L Health’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center were able to remove all of the cancer and will monitor her health for the next five years to make sure it doesn’t return.
But the big news was the state expects to get its first 38,025 Pfizer coronavirus vaccines by mid-December and the first round of 76,600 Moderna vaccines in about two weeks after that.
The state then expects to get more vaccines or boosters, likely in similar numbers, roughly every two weeks after that.
The distribution is well below what the state thought it would get initially, but it is based on population nationwide, Beshear said.
The state has put together a vaccination plan that focuses initially on long-term care patients and staff and front line health care workers and expands from there to others. Getting to the “general population” could be in the spring.
The vaccines are expected to be free and Beshear said efforts are being made to make sure the vaccines are given in the “communities where people live” much like the coronavirus testing system has been done.
The federal government has contracted with Walgreens and CVS pharmacies for some of the distribution and others are being handled by the state, which is in the process of running its first mock test of distribution and logistics with the federal government.
“If we can protect long-term care residents and health care staff, we can maintain and protect our health care capacity,” Beshear said of the rational behind the early distribution plans.
“We have been working day in and day out to get this done,” the governor said, noting that even with the first shipments, the state’s long-term care residents, staff, health care workers and first responders all won’t be vaccinated.
“The light is brighter at the end of the tunnel than it’s ever been, but we’ve still got to do all we can to stop the spread of the virus, to save lives…we’ve got a ways to go, we’ve got to keep at it,” Beshear stated.
“The first batch of vaccines will be provided to 38,000 individuals. We can go ahead and provide the first of these shots, and then we will receive the booster shots about three weeks later,” said Gov. Beshear. “We will be ready on moment one that were able to provide these vaccines.”
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require an initial shot followed by a booster shot.
While the number of doses and allocation plan are subject to change, the Governor said as of Monday the majority of the states initial vaccine shipment will go to long-term care (LTC) facilities; about 12,000 doses will go to hospitals to help inoculate health care workers.
“Every week we do not vaccinate long-term care residents, we lose them. With vaccines, we can provide such better protection to these individuals,” said Gov. Beshear. “We’ve been taking aggressive steps since the beginning of this virus, committed to fighting back, not surrendering to it or accepting avoidable loss.”
The state’s immediate goal is reducing COVID-19 deaths. With 66% of the deaths coming from LTC facilities, vaccines could help significantly decrease Kentuckys COVID-19 death toll beginning in January.
Also, because LTC residents tend to require the most care, vaccinations in LTC facilities will help reduce COVID-19s burden on Kentucky’s health care system, he stressed.
This week, the state is participating in an end-to-end exercise with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pfizer and McKesson to test one shipment of an empty thermal shipping container and a mock ancillary kit to one clinic site, the University of Kentucky Medical Center. This test run will help the state prepare for the initial vaccine distribution to LTC and health care facilities; the initial distribution will, in turn, prepare the commonwealth for even larger, more complex distributions in the months ahead.
“There is an extensive process in play here. First of all, these companies had to build these vaccines, they had to do the research, they had to demonstrate that they were safe,” said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Department of Public Health.
“Concurrently, we’ve had to consider how we will use these vaccines when very small quantities are available at the beginning, but there are many, many people who need the vaccine. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is going to have an emergency meeting tomorrow to further refine their recommendations.”
“There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel, but were not out of the woods yet. If we all mask up and socially distance, we can buy our hospitals the time they need.”
Kentuckians can visit the KYCOVID-19 website for more information on the vaccines, including the states draft plan and FAQs. A public service communication campaign is also expected to launch in December.
The governor reported 2,124 new cases, the second highest Monday even with testing and reporting shortened by the Thanksgiving holiday. The state now has confirmed 179,041 cases since March.
The positivity rate has started climbing again, reaching 9.42 percent Monday. That’s “very concerning,” Beshear said.
Of the cases, 421 people are in ICU and 229 are on ventilators, both up by double digits just since Sunday.
Area counties continue to see big increases, including 219 new cases in Fayette County, 46 in Pulaski, 40 in Jessamine, 37 each in Boyle and Mason counties, 33 in Grant and 30 each in Scott and Shelby.
The red zone counties for this week can be found here. Community leaders, businesses, schools and families in these counties should all follow red zone reduction recommendations, as well as other orders and guidance.
The state also recorded 12 more deaths, bringing the total to 1,908. Of those, two more were veterans at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Home in Jessamine County. After no coronavirus cases there until October, the center has now suffered 30 deaths of veterans to coronavirus-related causes.
Those reported lost to the virus include two women, ages 74 and 86, from Caldwell County; a 50-year-old woman from Daviess County; a 90-year-old man from Fayette County; a 68-year-old man from Grayson County; a 56-year-old woman from Jefferson County; a 77-year-old man from Marshall County; a 75-year-old woman and two men, ages 67 and 75, from McCracken County; an 87-year-old woman from McLean County; and an 84-year-old man from Webster County.
Even with the harsh numbers piling up, the governor repeated the advent of the vaccines with a third possibly coming as well, is reason for optimism.
“We may be able to turn COVID into something like a cold or a minor case of the flu,” Beshear stated, referring to it as a “miracle.”
To view the full daily report, incidence rate map, new statewide requirements, testing locations, long-term care and other congregate facilities update, school reports and guidance, red zone counties, red zone recommendations, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky and other key guidance visit, kycovid19.ky.gov.