FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – The continued spike of COVID-19 cases in Kentucky has led Gov. Andy Beshear to strongly urge everyone to get vaccinated, while stopping short of imposing the mandates that were in place earlier during the pandemic.
During a Thursday Capitol press conference, Beshear reminded Kentuckians, “The Delta variant is the most aggressive form of COVID, that we have seen. If you are unvaccinated, it is the deadliest form of COVID that we have seen.”
He also noted the spike in cases this week, which is part of a multi-week stretch of increases. “On Tuesday, we had 1,054 new COVID-19 cases, the highest since March 11. On Wednesday, an additional 963 cases.”
He continued, “As we sit here on Thursday, we should expect for this week’s numbers to exceed last week, and we believe at this point that we are going to be on Monday in another week of increasing cases.”
To drive his point home, the governor quoted Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner under former President Donald Trump: “If you are not vaccinated and you’ve not already had COVID, expect to get the Delta variant and expect to it will make you the sickest that you will ever be in your lifetime.”
State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack noted, “Our positivity rate is going up. It’s getting closer to seven percent. That’s a big leap from 1.6 or 1.7%, where we bottomed out just a couple months ago.”
He did note that although hospitalizations have risen, they are not at the same rate as last year, because of the vaccines, which has so far not strained the capacity of hospitals, not only for COVID patients, but for all other medical procedures.
As the cases have increased, so have the number of red zone counties, those with an incidence rate or 25 cases or more per 100,000 population. While there were no red zone counties on July 1, as of July 21, the number had risen to ten.
The governor announced a series of recommendations for red zone counties:
--Increase vaccination efforts to reach unvaccinated persons.
--Encourage masking as an effective way to reduce spread.
--Encourage physical distancing and maximize usage of outdoor spaces for gatherings Encourage medically vulnerable persons to avoid social activities with unvaccinated persons.
--Consider postponing large public events.
--Engage community partners and stakeholders to implement a strong communication plan.
When asked if he was considering reinstituting a mask mandate or other steps taken earlier in the pandemic, the governor said, “We’re not going to be afraid to make the tough decisions, if it is merited. But it is important to note that our world is entirely different post December 15 when we got our first vaccines. The fact that people can protect themselves from the Delta variant simply by getting a vaccine does change the equation.”