Beshear: Vaccinations Are Key To Reopening Kentucky

Army Capt. Isaiah Horton, a doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, receives a COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 14, 2020. Department Of Defense photo by Lisa Ferdinando via Wikimedia Commons.

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

[email protected]

State officials encourage Kentuckians to get vaccinated in order to reopen the state economy. 

More than 1.8 million Kentuckians have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Andy Beshear said at his briefing on Monday, a little more than 666,000 short of the 2.5 million goal Beshear has set to fully reopen the state.

Across the nation, more than 100 million Americans-one third of the population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. So far, more than 247 million doses have been administered, according to ourworldindata.org.

Even as officials continue to exhort Kentuckians to get vaccinated, the vaccination rate in the commonwealth has been declining for weeks.

Asked about the way other states have moved to reopen, Gov. Beshear said Kentucky has already taken many of the same steps. Last week, the governor lifted the requirement for masks to be worn at outdoor events with under 1,000 people in attendance. He said Kentucky was one of the first states to relax its mask mandate for outdoor events. “We just held the largest sporting event since COVID,” Beshear said, referring to the 147th Kentucky Derby last Saturday.

The political pressure to fully reopen the state has been mounting. Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles recently wrote an editorial urging Beshear to set a re-opening date for Kentucky, similar to New York and California.

“There is more certainty about business in New York and California than there is in Kentucky right now, even with our coronavirus numbers at incredibly low levels,” Quarles wrote. “The longer Kentucky refuses to open up, the longer we will lose jobs and workers to other states.” 

Gov. Beshear insists the best way to safely lift the restrictions here in Kentucky is through vaccinations. Without mentioning Quarles or any other critics by name, he encouraged those who want to reopen the state faster to spread the word about getting vaccinated. 

“If you’re traveling around, especially if you’re a part of a demographic that may be hesitant, just spend some time encouraging people to get vaccinated,” Beshear said Monday. “I don’t care who the message comes from, I just want our people to be safe.”

The governor said restrictions can continue to be lifted incrementally before Kentucky reaches the 2.5 million vaccination goal. Beshear said his administration is looking at possibly increasing capacity at restaurants and offices.

The governor said starting Monday, Kentucky will transition to the federal COVID-19 vaccination reporting system.

“We’re also going to start showing on our daily report the top five counties with the highest vaccination rates, as well as our bottom five counties by vaccination rate,” Beshear said. “To our top five counties: Good job. Keep it up. There is still so much more to do. To our bottom five counties: Let’s work even harder because we want everybody to be protected.”

Here in Mercer County, which has a population of 21,516 people, 8,066 residents—37.49-percent of the county’s population—have been vaccinated, according to the new vaccine dashboard available at kycovid19.ky.gov. The vaccine dashboard, which shows vaccinations at the county level, went live on Monday at 4 p.m.

COVID-19 vaccinations are now available to everyone in Mercer County 18 years old and over. The Mercer County Health Department will be administering the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine on Tuesday, May 11. For more details on how to sign up, visit the health department’s Facebook page or call 1-859-734-4522. In addition, vaccinations are available at Walmart and Kroger.

Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said the commonwealth is performing well on COVID-19 vaccinations relative to other states in the region and the nation overall.

“We’re outperforming every state south of us, from Texas to Florida,” Stack said Monday. “And, we are still outperforming five of our seven border states. But we can’t slow down. As countries like India and Brazil languish with thousands of deaths daily and collapsing health systems, it’s important that we not get complacent and that more people continue to make the choice to get vaccinated.”

On Monday, the state announced 313 new cases. In Mercer County, 88 cases were reported by the health department on their Facebook page on April 27, with one hospitalization and 75 people in quarantine. So far, 41 Mercer residents have died as a result of COVID-19, while 1,943 have recovered.

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