FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – As the delta variant continues to cause a spike of COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, a new testing and vaccine program at state-run health care facilities was announced on Monday.
“We are back into a period of time where a whole lot of things are moving, in the public sector and at the federal level, and we are learning more about the delta variant,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “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.”
He continues to urge Kentuckians to get vaccinated to bring the numbers under control.
Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander, who joined the governor at a Monday Capitol press conference, explained that universal masking will be required in all state-run health care facilities, including veterans nursing homes, effective Tuesday.
In addition, following the recommendation of the Long-Term Care Task Force, the cabinet will strongly recommend that 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, or under the provisions of Senate Bill 8 passed during the 2021 session, have filed a letter with the Cabinet that they conscientiously object; a form for which is on the Cabinet website. 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,” Friedlander said. “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.”
Gov. Beshear continues to recommend 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.”
While the governor last week ordered that people wear masks in state office buildings, regardless of vaccination status, the Legislative Research Commission on Monday issued a new policy saying fully vaccinated guests are not required to wear a mask in committee rooms or other areas controlled by the LRC, while unvaccinated guests should wear a mask at all times. The LRC added, all guests should be prepared to wear a mask in areas controlled by the state executive branch.
Numbers released Monday by state public health officials show the COVID-19 spike continues, with 1,052 new cases reported, raising the pandemic total to 486,115. Of the 796 Kentuckians hospitalized Monday, 250 were in the ICU and 98 on a ventilator. There were also five more deaths bringing the number of Kentuckians lost to the coronavirus to 7,348.
In addition, 74 of Kentucky‘s 120 counties are in the red zone, meaning an incidence rate of more than 25 per 100,000 population.
The next COVID-19 update by Gov. Beshear is expected on Thursday.