It was busy at the Mercer County Health Department Tuesday, as volunteers hurried to get shots into the arms of Mercer residents. Every week, the health department gets 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine. On Tuesdays, volunteers distribute 100 first doses and on Wednesdays, they distribute 100 second doses.
Health Department Director Cathy Akins said she sometimes gets calls from people upset that they haven’t been able to get a shot yet. Akins said she tries to explain that the department has been concentrating on people with transportation issues—including nursing home residents and shut-ins. “My job is to alleviate any fears, educated them and explain why we’re doing what we’re going,” Akins said. She said most callers calm down once she explains what the department is doing.
“Most everybody has been grateful just to get a shot,” she said.
All Kentuckians aged 16 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. According to Gov. Andy Beshear, the Pfizer vaccine is approved for individuals 16 and older while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for individuals 18 and older.
On Monday, Gov. Beshear said Kentucky beat President Joe Biden’s timeline for all Americans 16 and up being able to get the vaccine by a full month.
“These vaccines are our ticket out of this pandemic,” Beshear said. “They are not only safe. They are saving lives.”
More than 1.438 million Kentuckians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose so far, according to the governor, while over 100 million Americans have received at least one shot, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, even as more and more people get vaccinated, some experts are concerned about another surge in infections.
Kentucky recently ended a 12-week period of steady declines in new cases of COVID-19 last week, with 4,377 new cases, up from 4,196 the week before. The commonwealth’s positivity rate is now 2.9-percent, based on a seven-day rolling average.
On Monday, Gov. Beshear stressed the need for Kentuckians to remain vigilant and continue to wear masks and maintain social distance.
“We’re in the fourth quarter and we have to keep playing,” Beshear said. “We can’t fumble the ball this late.”
Even as states like Florida and Texas have fully re-opened—40,000 people attended the Texas Rangers’ first game of the season this weekend—nations like France and Italy have gone back into lockdown. Italy, home of the Catholic Church, shutdown for the Easter weekend because of an increase in new infections.
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the growth in new cases is following the same pattern seen in previous surges.
“In terms of the United States, we’re just at the beginning of this surge,” Osterholm said. “We haven’t even really begun to see it yet.”
Michigan reported 8,400 new cases on Saturday, and Osterholm and other experts are concerned about the rising number of severe cases for people between the ages of 30 and 50.
On Tuesday, the U.S. had over 30.7 million confirmed cases, with 555,777 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. remains the global epicenter for the pandemic.
Here in Mercer County, there are currently 27 active cases, with one person hospitalized, according to an April 2 Facebook post by the Mercer County Health Department. Currently, 75 people are in quarantine.
In a county with a little more than 22,000 people, nearly a tenth of them have been infected, according to the health department, with 88 total hospitalizations and 38 deaths. Mercer adds three new cases every day on average
Vaccinations remain available locally. In addition to the health department, Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, Kroger and Walmart are offering vaccinations.
For more information on how to get vaccinated, visit the health department website at health-mercercounty.ky.gov.
For more information on getting vaccinated, visit kycovid19.ky.gov.