Kentucky Horse Park to be first mass vaccine site, starting Tuesday

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Courtesy Johnson & Johnson

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Alltec Arena at Kentucky Horse Park will be the first “high-performance,” large-scale site for what is now being called the “shot of hope” COVID vaccine.

The site is the first regional center operated by Kroger in partnership with the state. It will begin giving shots at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2.

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The other three slots include Ephraim McDowell Health in Danville and two sites in Paducah, one at Western Baptist and one at Lourdes Mercy.

Security and the National Guard will be on hand to help those who have difficulty walking.

The state hopes to give 3,000 vaccines in the first week with priority given to people over 70, which is a critical group in what is the category 1b priority list.

If doses are available, others in categories 1a and 1b which includes health care workers, first responders and educators, can get shots. But the majority of first responders and medical professionals have already gotten shots, the governor said.

And the state is finishing up educators, with most of those scheduled through local school districts.

The 1a and 1b category includes about 500,000 people.

Beshear stressed that Kentucky, like other states, receives its vaccine doses from the federal government and due to limited supplies it will take time before everyone can be vaccinated. But, he said, everyone will get a turn.

“Beginning Feb. 1, 2021, the COVID-19 vaccination priority will be phase 1B, people ages 70 or older, and all vaccination sites are asked to prioritize this population until further notice,” Beshear said. “Other Kentuckians from phases 1A and 1B remain eligible for vaccination and as vaccine quantities and available appointment times allow, persons in phase 1C may also be scheduled, to ensure each vaccination site administers 90% or more of all vaccine doses received within seven days of arrival.”

The governor was joined Thursday by Pheli Roberts, health leader for Kroger Louisville Division, who shared more information about the first regional vaccination site.

Kentuckians can be vaccinated by appointment only, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday the week of Feb. 1, then from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday beginning the week of Feb. 8.

“At Kroger Health we are committed to helping people live healthier lives and we’re happy to be able to provide an easy solution to those Kentuckians seeking a vaccine,” said Roberts. “Our team at Kroger Health stands with you to keep Kentucky and the surrounding communities healthy and safe.”

Kentucky Horse Park Regional Site Sign-Up (Currently Prioritizing 70+)
Kroger regional site appointments can be scheduled directly at Kroger.com/covidvaccine or call 866-211-5320; Kentuckians also can be directed to contact Kroger through the state’s vaccine.ky.gov website.

This site will vaccinate 3,000 Kentuckians in the first week, approximately 600 people per day. New appointments are added to the website every around 6 a.m. daily.

Find a Vaccine Website
By answering a series of questions on the new vaccine.ky.gov website, which is protected and secure, Kentuckians can determine if they are currently eligible for a vaccine and if so will be directed to a map that shows available vaccines sites across the state, like the four new centers added Thursday. As vaccine supplies increase, more sites will be added to the map and announced.

Kentuckians not currently eligible or unable to locate an available vaccine are encouraged to sign up for text or email updates by entering their name, county of residence and an email or phone number at vaccine.ky.gov.

The sign-up is not a wait list or appointment scheduler, but aims to provide alerts when a person’s eligibility changes, or, for example, when vaccines are available in an area.

Find a Vaccine Hotline
Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said in addition to the Find a Vaccine website, a new hotline has been added to help Kentuckians who do not have access to the internet or computer or need additional assistanceThe hotline – 855-598-2246 or TTY 855-326-4654 – is available 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

“Hotline operators are prepared to walk a person without internet through what’s on the website via a phone call,” Dr. Stack said. “For those who are vaccine eligible, the operator can help them identify a vaccine location and connect them by phone or even help them look for an available appointment. For those not currently eligible, the operator can help the caller sign up for text or email notifications.”

Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, who also serves as director of the Vaccine Distribution Project, shared a map of the Kentucky Horse Park location, discussed parking access and stressed patience as the state only has a limited amount of vaccines from the federal government at this time.

“We have no doubt that any available appointment will fill up immediately and we need every Kentuckian to know our ability to add more appointments and vaccine locations is strictly dependent on supply,” Secretary Gray said. “We do already have more Kroger regional sites planned in the weeks to come and we look forward to sharing that exciting news soon.”

This week, the Governor said the federal government will increase each state’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines and guarantee a minimum supply for three consecutive weeks.

“The top-line message on vaccines is the same as it has been: Our one issue is supply. Our only limitation at this point is the number of doses we can get from the federal government,” said Gov. Beshear.

The Governor added the state had three specific challenges, all related to a limited supply of the vaccine.

First, the small number of doses the state receives compared to the very large number of health care providers who would like to distribute it.

Second, the state does not have enough vaccine doses or small enough vaccine batches to distribute them equitably on a county by county basis – instead the state is distributing equitably by region.

Finally, as the state moves into larger and larger phases, the type of infrastructure needed from providers to accommodate patient needs changes.

Next Thursday, Feb. 4, it will announce four more and the week after that, Feb. 11, another four.

As the supply continues to increase, the state will announce and open additional sites across the state.

“The most likely problem people will have is lack of supply, but we are putting the infrastructure into place when we have as much supply as we need,” Beshear said, again encouraging people to “be patient.”

When he announced the Kroger partnership and regional centers two weeks ago, the  governor said he hoped to open the process up to people in group 1c, which includes essential workers and people over 60. But supply and demand forced the state to adjust those goals.

“Demand is going through the roof,” Beshear said.

The current two categories include about 500,000 people, while 1c includes an estimated one million people alone. The state doesn’t anticipate supplies being able to meet that kind of demand in the short-term so it is not opening up access “just yet.”

“We want to be able to open access and appointments up to as many people as we can as soon as we can, but we have to be able to have the supply,” Beshear said.

The governor reported 2,947 new coronavirus cases Thursday, the lowest Thursday number in four weeks.

The positivity rate was 9.04 percent, the fourth straight day below 10 percent. It also continues what has been a steady decline from a high of more than 12 percent three weeks ago.

“The trends are going in the right way,” Beshear said, noting the number of hospitalization, people in ICU and patients on ventilators also dropped from Wednesday, continuing what also has been a slow but steady decline.

Hospital bed and ICU capacity both dropped below 70 percent use.

Unfortunately, the state reported the highest single day of deaths — 69 — although some of the deaths date back several weeks but only have not been confirmed as related to COVID causes. The deaths brought the state’s total to 3,611.

“Today we honor another one of our own on Team Kentucky as we share the story of Jonathan Alexander, a team member of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Information and Technology,” said Beshear. “He was only 43 – far too young to be taken from us. He passed away on Jan. 23 after complications from surgery and COVID-19.

“Jonathan was known by all for his kindness. He always went out of the way to help those in need, not only in his personal life but also through his work. An example of this is through his organizing of the ‘Big Tip Challenge’ – a fundraiser for restaurant workers whose jobs had been impacted by the COVID pandemic. He also organized the annual Salvation Army’s Angel Tree drive for OIT, making sure every Kentucky family had something under their tree at Christmas.

“Jonathan always said, ‘If you’re fortunate enough to be able to help somebody, do it. It’s an amazing experience.’ Jonathan’s passing is such a loss for Kentucky. I hope we can learn from his words and do the right thing for our people.

“Our prayers are with Jonathan’s mother, Brenda Whitaker, his brother, Jason, and many great friends and coworkers. We also are thinking of his beloved dogs who were family to him – Reesie, Roxie, Rylie Rosie and Rowdy. Let’s mask up in honor of Jonathan and light our homes green so that his family and friends know they are not alone and we are holding them close in prayer,” the governor concluded in his memorial tribute.