3/23 update — Vaccinations hit new high, but several locations have hundreds of slots open, and the U.S. pandemic plateau may be coming to Ky.

As Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky broke another weekly record for coronavirus shots, he also announced that several vaccination sites have many slots open next week and encouraged people to sign up for one of them. Meanwhile, daily case numbers suggested a pause or plateau in their decline.

“I’m really excited that this week we again broke another record, 198,447 Kentuckians vaccinated in this last vaccine week. . . . We want to keep that up. We want everybody to get their shot of hope,” Beshear said. “We are now, though, seeing some vaccine areas that have extra appointments.”

He said the Kentucky Dam Village Convention Center in Gilbertsville has more than 2,000 slots available; Pikeville Medical Center has about 1,000; Carter County has about 750; adjoining Boyd County and King’s Daughters Pavilion in Russell have about 900; and Christian County has about 500.

Go to vaccine.ky.gov for more information on these locations. Sign-ups for Gilbertsville can be made at kyvax.com/kydam or by calling 859-217-4679. Anyone needing help with free or low-cost transportation can check kyCOVID19.ky.gov fora participating transit agency; they’re in 90 counties.

Beshear urged anyone 50 and older in those areas to sign up for an appointment at one of these locations and said he would announce on social media which locations have vaccination slots that need filling.

At a news briefing called to discuss bill signings and vetoes, Beshear didn’t comment on why so many slots are available. When asked about vaccine hesitancy, especially among Republicans who may not be receptive to a Democratic governor’s message, he said they were working on this. He noted that some Republican leaders have been vaccinated publicly, said that he has asked for help from the state’s congressional delegation, and that he is continuing to look for help from local leaders.

Beshear gave an example about the value of local leadership. He said at a grants announcement Monday, Hazard’s mayor said the city and Perry County appear to have the state’s highest vaccination rates. “That’s because of hard work that they are doing at that local level to push it out,” he said.

The governor added that health departments were also trusted members of the community and that the state was close to being able to work with employers to get people vaccinated.

For the second day in a row, he suggested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could help with “more guidance about what vaccinated people can do, which would encourage more people who want to do those things to become vaccinated,” he said. Those things include travel.

The Washington Post talked to six experts about whether driving or flying is best for those who choose to travel. Their answers varied between recognizing that both methods come with risk, to one saying it’s safe and another saying it’s best to be cautious, so driving is best.

Daily numbers: Beshear issued a press release announcing 893 new cases of the novel coronavirus, a bit higher than the last two Tuesdays, when he reported 819 and 880 new cases, respectively.

The state’s seven-day average of new cases rose by 11, to 661. Tuesday was only the fourth day in the last four weeks that the average has risen.

Tuesday also saw a rise in the statewide rate of new cases over the last seven days. It was the second straight day for that, which could be a sign that the state is entering a plateau.

The rate is 12.27 cases per 100,000 people, and it rose by more than double yesterday’s increase, after months of decline. Monday’s rate was 12 cases per 100,000; Sunday’s was 11.89.

Counties with rates Tuesday rates more than double the statewide rate are Lyon, 146; Simpson, 79.2; Knox, 39.4; Whitley, 28.8; Trimble, 28.7; Estill, 28.4; Jackson, 27.9; Powell, 27.7; and Hopkins, 26.2.

Beshear said Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a call with governors and the White House Coronavirus Task Force, voiced concern about the national plateau of new cases, but named Kentucky as one of the states on the right trajectory. The state just finished its 10th straight week of declining new-case numbers.

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days was the same as Monday: 2.93%.

Kentucky hospitals reported 436 COVID-19 patients, 93 of them in intensive care; and 48 of those on ventilators. The share of ICU patients on ventilators returned to normal after two days of higher numbers.

The easternmost hospital readiness region, from Lee to Pike counties, and the Lake Cumberland region had, respectively, 80.9% and 84.4% of their intensive care beds in use.

The state officially listed 11 more deaths from COVID-19, plus four more from an ongoing audit of death certificates going back to October. All four audited deaths were in December; six of Tuesday’s 11 happened in March; two in February; two in January; and one in December. The death toll is 5,814.

Tuesday’s fatalities were a man from Caldwell County, 61; a woman from Harrison County, 75; a Harrison County man, 70; a Jefferson County woman, 56; five Jefferson County men, 44, 70, 71, 73 and 75; a Johnson County man, 89; and a Martin County man, 63.

Fourth vaccine? Beshear said Fauci told governors that he believes the Astra Zeneca vaccine is effective and safe, and that the company simply needs to provide the most recent clinical-trial information to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for review for emergency-use authorization.

The agency Fauci heads, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, issued a highly unusual statement very early Tuesday morning saying AstraZeneca “may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.”

Beshear also said Fauci told the governors that he anticipates that the U.S. will be able to start coronavirus vaccinations to all high-school students in the fall and to all students by early 2022.

In other pandemic news Tuesday:

  • Counties with more than 10 new cases were Jefferson, 148; Warren, 55; Fayette, 53; Laurel, 49; Scott, 35; Christian, 29; Daviess and Madison, 23; Barren, Knox, and Whitley, 19; Boone, McCracken and Simpson, 17; Oldham, 16; Hopkins, 14; Montgomery and Pike, 13; Allen, Bullitt and Hardin, 12; and Kenton, 11.
  • In long-term care, only one new resident case and five new staff cases were reported to the state, for a total of 73 active resident cases and 81 active staff cases.
  • The Louisville Courier Journal expands on advice for Kentuckians planning to travel for spring break. Louisville’s chief health strategist, Dr. Sarah Moyer, said anyone planning to travel should get tested before Wednesday, and to stay home if positive. She recommends that travelers get tested three to five days after returning.
  • The Biden administration plans to use the Christian Broadcasting Network and NASCAR to persuade hesitant conservatives to be vaccinated, TheWall Street Journal reports: “The public-service campaign features videos with a new Willie Nelson recording and athletes representing 13 sports leagues and organizations.”
  • Experts say that coronavirus vaccines still work even if you don’t experience any side effects after getting a shot, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.
  • The Robley Rex VA Medical Center in Louisville is offering vaccine to veterans of any age, WDRB reports. Veterans can call 502-287-4426 to request an appointment.
  • Sharing pictures of coronavirus vaccination cards on social media could make you a target for scammers, WKYT-TV reports.
  • In his first interview since being confirmed, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said a new federal strategy to get disparate populations vaccinated will include bringing vaccines to people where they are, including farms, construction zones and other work sites. He also talked about the importance of addressing behavioral-health problems exacerbated by the pandemic, and the importance of making health care more available and affordable, The Washington Post reports.

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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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