We are posting the updates from Governor Beshear as a service to our readers, along with the full video of the press conference. The summary comes from the KY Health News site, and the video is straight from YouTube. The summary includes both points from the Beshear press conference and news items related to those bullets.

Summary from KY Health News (original post)

Gov. Andy Beshear offered some good news at his last news conference of the week, announcing that 28 more coronavirus vaccination sites will open next week, and some long-term-care facilities will be able to allow visitation starting Saturday. He also said virus testing in Kentucky needs to increase.

“We are doing what we can on the state side to provide more visitation to those that have been fully vaccinated,” Beshear said. “Again, as we emerge from this pandemic, we hope to be able to relax that further, but some really good news today.”

With the federal immunization program for long-term-care facilities wrapping up, Beshear announced that starting Saturday, Feb. 20, some will be able to allow “group activities, communal dining, and visitation amongst vaccinated residents.”

Written by Melissa Patrick of Kentucky Health News

Beshear said the new rules will apply to residents in non-Medicare-certified facilities that have gone through the full vaccination process. He said such facilities include assisted-living homes, personal-care homes, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and independent-living facilities.

The new guidance allows each fully vaccinated resident up to two visitors from the same household at one time. Visitors will need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of the visit, or proof of vaccination. Detailed guidance will be posted on the Cabinet for Health and Family Services‘ Office of Inspector General’s website Friday.

Beshear stressed that Medicare-certified nursing homes are still not included, saying the state is waiting for a change in guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before it can make this change in the highest level of long-term-care facilities, skilled nursing.

Vaccines: Beshear announced that starting next week, the state will open an additional 28 vaccination sites, bringing the total number to 291. He said there will now be a vaccination provider close to every Kentuckian, although some will have to drive a bit farther than others.

That number “isn’t meant for the amount of supply we have now,” he cautioned. “It’s meant for the day that we get so much in that we can get everybody through. And my hope, a record rapid time to get everybody vaccinated. We’re building for the future and our infrastructure is way ahead of supply.”

Beshear said the state will add six new regional sites next week in Albany, Cadiz, Campbellsville, Hartford, Marion and Maysville. That brings the total number of regional sites to 51. Go to vaccine.ky.gov to find out how to sign up for an appointment at one of these sites.

There will be 10 new Kroger sites, in Bardstown, LaGrange, Lebanon, Louisville, Madisonville, Morehead, Mt. Sterling, Owensboro, Somerset and Walton. That brings the total Kroger sites to 20. Appointments can be made at Kroger.com/COVIDVaccine.

There will be 10 new Walmart sites, in Alexandria, Ashland, Bardstown, Fulton, Hanson, Harrodsburg, Leitchfield, Princeton, Russellville and Somerset. That brings the total Walmart sites to 25. Appointments can be made at Walmart.com/COVIDVaccine.

Two more community health centers will offer vaccines, one in McKee and the other in Mt. Vernon. That brings these sites to nine.

Also, there are 61 local health department sites and 125 federal-pharmacy-program sites: 78 Walgreens and 47 independent pharmacies that use the Good Neighbor Pharmacy brand.

The daily vaccine report shows 555,373 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. That’s about 12.4% of the state’s population.

Beshear encouraged people who needed to reschedule at the regional sites because of bad weather to follow the directions on their confirmation e-mail.

After saying Western Kentucky has only 15 Krogers, only 17 towns with a Walgreens and none of the community health centers that have vaccines, Scott Brown of WKDZ (Cadiz-Hopkinsville) asked Beshear to address the feelings of some in the region that it is short of vaccine sites.

Beshear said, “Number of sites are different from amount of vaccine that gets to a certain area. You know, there was a Western Kentucky legislator who was concerned about the amount several weeks ago and when we looked at the area, it was about 5 percent of the state’s population and got about 13 percent of the vaccine in the early part of the rollout.”

He added, “We actually argued with and won the argument with the federal government to add the local community pharmacies, to the Walgreens and the federal pharmacy program. And a lot of those are in Western Kentucky. Certain parts of Western Kentucky have a whole lot of options right now, Paducah being one.”

The governor said every mayor and county judge-executive “wants to fight for a facility … and in many ways don’t think it’s their job about how much the next county has. The state, we’ve got to try to build a fair and equitable distribution that is on a statewide basis.”

Prisoners: In response to a question, Beshear said the state hopes to vaccinate the 181 state prison inmates who are 70 and older in the next phase of vaccination. That phase, 1C, includes people in the general public who are 60 and older, those 16 and older with certain health conditions, and all essential workers.

Of the 9,547 state inmates, 214 are between 65 and 69, and 431 between 60 and 64. Last week, Health Commissioner Steven Stack stressed the importance of vaccinating those 60 and older because they account for 91% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.

Asked if he thought the prisons already had some herd immunity because so many inmates had been infected, Beshear said was a good question but they had not considered that possibility. Regardless, he said, the recommendation is for everyone to get vaccinated, even if they have had the virus.

According to the Department of Corrections website, 6,907 inmates have ever tested positive for the coronavirus. That amounts to 70% of the population, close to the 75-80% needed for herd immunity. As of Feb. 18, there are 20 active staff cases and seven active inmate cases in the facilities.

Daily numbers: Beshear reported 963 new cases of the virus, bringing the state’s seven-day rolling average to 1,125, the lowest it’s been since Oct. 19.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days crept up again, to 7.07% on Thursday, up from 6.99% Wednesday and 6.58% Tuesday. Beshear said this is likely related to the bad weather since testing is “really down this week” and those who are getting tested are likely sick.

“We need people to get back to their normal habits and getting regularly tested,” he said. “It both protects you and your family, and it gives us critical information we need in the state. It gives us the best data to make the best decisions.”

This week’s White House Coronavirus Task Force report shows the negative trend for testing in the state, down by 2% in the week ended Feb. 12. The report showed that the recent decline in hospitalizations is a result of fewer patients over 70. Their case umbers are also down, and both trends seem related to vaccinations.

Graph showing Kentuckians 70 and up drive decline in COVID hospitalizations
White House Coronavirus Task Force graphic, adapted by Kentucky Health News

On Thursday, Kentucky hospitals reported 935 COVID-19 patients, 260 of them in intensive care and 130 of those on ventilators. Beshear called these numbers “all pretty stable.” Three of the hospital readiness regions have are using more than 80% of their intensive-care beds: Barren River, 81%; the easternmost region, from Lee to Pike counties, 86%; and Lake Cumberland, 91%.

The statewide infection rate plummeted again, to 21.37 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, perhaps a result of decreased testing. Only two counties had an infection rate more than double the statewide rate: Metcalfe, 46.8; and Bell, 43.9.

Nationwide, Kentucky’s new-case rate is higher than most states. The daily compilation by The New York Times shows Kentucky has dropped out of the top 10, falling to 12th place on Thursday.

Beshear said 37 more Kentuckians have died from COVID-19, 31 of them confirmed and six probable. That brings the state’s death toll to 4,373. The 14-day death average is down by 0.5, to 32.3.

In other coronavirus news Thursday:

  • Today’s 37 fatalities were a Barren County woman, 83; a Breckinridge County woman, 90; a Bullitt County woman, 71; a Bullitt County man, 84; a Caldwell County woman, 71; a Caldwell County man, 71; a Casey County woman, 60; a Christian County woman, 40; a Fayette County woman, 68; two Fayette County men, 43 and 70; a Floyd County man, 73; a Graves County man, 72; a Hardin County man, 80; a Henry County man, 54; a Hopkins County man, 63; two Jefferson County women, 71,82; five Jefferson County men, 63, 78, 82, 87 and 93; a Kenton County woman, 101; a Lee County woman, 73; a Logan County woman, 64; a McCreary County woman, 60; a Marshall County woman, 77; two Marshall County men, 84,87; a Monroe County woman, 64; a Muhlenberg County woman, 69; a Shelby County woman, 79; two Spencer County women, 60 and 67; and a Todd County woman, 86.
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases on Thursday were Jefferson, 145; Fayette, 66; Laurel, 41; Christian, 35; Kenton, 32; Boone, 28; Montgomery, 27; Bullitt, 24; Campbell, 23; Warren, 22; Jessamine and Madison, 21; Hardin and Shelby, 19; Boyd, 18; Pike, 17; Franklin and McCracken, 16; Bell, Greenup, Nelson and Scott, 14; Daviess, 13; Oldham, 12; Hopkins, Morgan and Spencer, 11; Clark, Knox and Mason, 10.
  • In long-term care, 231 residents and 172 employees have an active case of the coronavirus, with eight residents and 10 staff added to that list Thursday. Beshear attributed seven more deaths of long-term-care residents to COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 2,236. He said the drop in case numbers is attributed to widespread immunization in these facilities.
  • Through a partnership with Lexington, the state and other community partners, the University of Kentucky will offer four mobile pop-up clinics to vaccinate medically underserved populations in Fayette County, it said. The state will allocate 500 shots per weekend for each of the clinics, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at each site. Community groups are working on who will be invited to the clinics; walk-up appointments will not be permitted. The coronavirus test and vaccines will be free. Here is the schedule:
    • Feb. 20: Keeneland, 4201 Versailles Road. Keeneland is providing vaccine to Hispanics who work in the track’s stable area and on Bluegrass horse farms.
    • Feb. 27: First Baptist Church Bracktown, 3016 Bracktown Rd. (along Leestown Road).
    • Mar. 6: Shiloh Baptist Church, 237 E. 5th St.
    • Mar. 13: Charles Young Community Center, 540 E. 3rd.
  • Follow-up clinics for booster shots and continued testing will be held at the same sites the following four weekends in the same order, says the release.
  • University of Louisville Health will run similar pop-up clinics at predominately Black churches, WDRB reports. The first clinic is scheduled at Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center,324 E. Broadway, Friday. Just under 800 people had signed up by Tuesday, Kate Springer reports.
  • Maggie Menderski of the Courier Journal tells the story of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Louisville, which collects food to help feed the hungry every week instead of holding services. So far, she reports they have collected more than 20,000 items since the pandemic began, lately averaging more than 600 items a week.
  • For winter weather updates and resources, visit snowky.ky.gov. For updates on roadway conditions, visit goky.ky.gov.
  • Click here for an unemployment insurance update, found on the governor’s news release.

Video of Beshear 2/18 press conference

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Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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