State-run health facilities get new COVID rules, mask-mandate not off table: Beshear

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – On Monday Governor Beshear along with state health officials stressed the importance of doing more to keep the most vulnerable safe from COVID-19 in all state-run health facilities.

“We got to make sure that since we know the delta variant is aggressive that we don’t let it back in our healthcare settings and this is taking steps to make sure we can do so” said Governor Beshear.

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So the state is now requiring universal masking in state-run health facilities…including veteran’s nursing homes, effective August 3rd.

“No matter where these facilities are located we are going to require that we wear masks, we have to wear masks, it is the minimal thing that we can do” said Secretary Eric Friedlander

Secretary Friedlander adding that everyone who is not vaccinated and is working with the public in state operated long-term facilities have to get tested at least twice a week to make sure they are protecting other staff and residents.
If vaccinated he says you will only be tested when it’s mandated by the c-d-c guidelines

“We’ve seen it really attacks in facilities and congregant settings, we know that this is the case, we don’t expect anything different” said Friedlander.

Health care facilities are heeding the requirements…like Sayre Christian Village in Lexington…officials say they are going over the requirements and putting a plan in place…that the health and safety of staff and residents is their top priority.

And in addition to testing and masks, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will require all contractors and state employees working in the facilities be fully vaccinated by October 1, unless there is a religious or medical reason they can’t be.

“This delta variant is real it is potent, we need to take precautions, we need to protect ourselves, our families and others just like we’ve done throughout this pandemic” said Friedlander.

Beshear adding that he is not considering a vaccination mandate, that he does not think it would be effective, but a mask mandate is still not off the table.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Citing 38 days of rising positivity rates and COVID numbers not seen since before a vaccine became available, Gov. Andy Beshear called COVID a “wildfire” that is spreading across the state, especially among the unvaccinated.

But rather than mandates, the governor said it’s a simple matter of people making the right decision to get vaccinated and relying on sound medical advice rather than wild rumors and falsehoods.

Today, Gov. Andy Beshear discussed the latest on the COVID-19 delta variant in Kentucky and explained how Kentucky is leading by example with a new testing and vaccine program at state-run health care facilities.

“We are back into a period of time where a whole lot of things are moving – in the public sector, at the federal level – and we are learning more about the delta variant,” said Beshear, noting the state is leading by example with a new testing and vaccine program at state-run health care facilities.  “The delta variant is spreading like wildfire. This variant is spreading faster than anything we have seen. If you’re unvaccinated, you are at significant risk.”

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander, who joined the governor during Monday’s briefing, explained universal masking will be required in all state-run health care facilities, including veterans nursing homes, effective Aug. 3.

In addition, following the recommendation of the Long-Term Care Task Force, the cabinet will strongly encourage all contractors and state employees working in these state-operated facilities be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1, unless there is a religious or medical reason they cannot be vaccinated.

If any of the staff in these facilities is unvaccinated, they will be tested at least twice weekly for their safety and the safety of the Kentuckians they serve.

“Despite all of our efforts, this virus has claimed lives in our facilities, just as it has in facilities across America, and it threatens to do so again,” said Friedlander. “Increasing the vaccination rate and/or testing rates for staff is a critical next step to ensure that we defeat this COVID variant and provide the best protection possible for the people who receive care in our facilities.”

The latest move comes after Beshear announced last week new COVID-19 precautions based on updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The governor required all employees and visitors at state office buildings, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings. Many businesses and organizations have followed by increasing indoor masking, including Ford Motor Co. in Louisville.

In accordance with CDC guidance, Beshear also recommended school districts require universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Children should return to full-time, in-person learning in the fall with layered strategies in place to prevent COVID-19 infection and transmission.

“We want to get back to normal. Those who are not vaccinated are preventing us from getting back to normal,” said Beshear. “If you’re unvaccinated, your chances of being in the hospital are significantly higher than those who are vaccinated.”

When asked about returning to a mask mandate or adding cash incentives encouraging people to get vaccinated, Beshear said all options remain in play. But mandates aren’t the first option.

“We have to have the tough conversations,” beshear said, referring to individuals, businesses and others who can sway the unvaccinated to get the shots.

“At this time, we are not considering an vaccination mandate…when people dig their heals in already, a mandate: isn’t going to make the difference, he explained.

“We are not taking the potential for a mask mandate off the table, but we’ll” have to take a look at it if hospitals start seeing severe cases and full capacity, he continued.

“Right now we are not worried about capacity,” he stated, noting medical facilities “know what to do” to manage their case loads but that could change. “I am concerned about how sick people are.”

As for incentives, such as using federal stimulus money to pay people $100 to get vaccinated, the governor said he wants to use “incentives that work” and noted his staff is monitoring tools some other states have tried to see what has made a difference and increased numbers.

The simple spread of the virus may be making a difference. Last week, 40,000 people got vaccinated statewide, half the 80,000 that got vaccinated in the month prior to that, he explained.

The state has seen 38 straight days of rising positivity rate, going from 1.79% in June to 9.77% Monday, Beshear said.

Statewide, 63% of people 18 and older have gotten at least one shot but the numbers decline the younger the age group. For those 65 and over, 83% have at least one shot. For those 18 to 29, it drops to 37%

And the difference between the vaccinated and partially or unvaccinated is stark. The number of cases among fully vaccinated people is 4,198 compared to 66,217 among the partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, he said.

The governor said a total of 2,319,625 people have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine and since Friday, 22,663 got at least the first dose.

The state reported 1,052 new cases Monday with 796 hospitalizations, 250 people in ICU and 98 people on ventilators, all significantly higher than Friday.

“Unvaccinated people are preventing us from getting back to normal,” Beshear said, pleading with people to get the shot.

“We don’t have to go to extreme measures like before the vaccine was available, just get vaccinated….everything that’s happening now is avoidable.”