Thursday, May 13, 2021

Beshear says Ky. will follow new CDC mask guidance for fully vaccinated, an incentive for Kentuckians to get 'your shot of hope'

Centers for Disease Control chart; to enlarge, click on it.
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations Thursday that drop most mask rules for people fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and Gov. Andy Beshear says Kentucky will follow suit. 

"This is outstanding. It means that we are so close to normalcy and we're going to be changing Kentucky's mask mandate to be the same with those CDC guidelines," Beshear said in a Facebook post. "Now, folks, this means you ought to go get your shot of hope if you haven't." 

Beshear said "hundreds of thousands" vaccine appointments are available across the state, adding that when you are fully vaccinated, it is now safe to take that mask off. "Let's defeat this pandemic once and for all."

So far, 1,897,117 people have received at least one dose of a vaccine in Kentucky, or 43% of the state's total population.  The Washington Post reports 35.1% of the state's total population has been fully vaccinated. 

The new guidance allows fully vaccinated people to not wear a mask indoors, with some exceptions, and outdoors altogether. 

"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a press conference. "We have all longed for this moment."

Walensky said the guidance is "based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines, and our understanding of how the virus spreads."

She cautioned that fully vaccinated people who are immune-compromised should talk to their doctor before following the new mask guidance. 

The guidance makes exceptions for crowded indoor spaces: buses, airplanes, health-care settings, congregate settings such as jails and homeless shelters, or where it conflicts with federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local rules for workplaces. 

It calls on fully vaccinated people who experience Covid-19 symptoms to get tested and for them to follow the CDC and health department's travel requirements and recommendations. 

A fully vaccinated person is one who is two weeks past getting their second dose of either the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Republicans said it's time for the Democratic governor to follow the lead of neighboring states and end all mask mandates and capacity restrictions. House Speaker David Osborne pointed out that the state has not seen a spike in cases after hosting more than 50,000 people at the Kentucky Derby.

“Today’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is just further evidence that we are well past the time for this mandate to expire and our state to go even further in eliminating capacity restrictions," Osborne said in a prepared statement. "The legislature recognized this when we chose not to extend these mandates as part of Covid relief legislation passed during the 2021 session, but the governor chose to challenge the measure in court."

The legislation would end the mask mandates if the state Supreme Court rules in Beshear's favor in an earlier lawsuit over his emergency powers.

Osborne added, "The CDC speaks clearly to the need to rely on local, more targeted approaches and guidance, as well as the fact that individuals are prepared to make the decisions necessary to protect themselves. What further evidence does this administration need to open our state?" 

In an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles again called for Beshear to set a firm date to reopen the state's economy. 

"While his latest announcement of loosening capacity restrictions is a step in the right direction, it is still not good enough for our small businesses, like restaurants, or where other leaders across the country are headed or have been," Quarles wrote. 

Beshear has said businesses that serve less than 1,000 people can operate at 75% capacity starting May 28. He has also said he will lift the curfew on restaurants and bars on that same day. 

Daily numbers: The state reported 674 new cases of coronavirus Thursday, with 151, or 22.4% of them in people 18 and under. That brings the seven-day rolling average to 522, about where it has been for four days. 

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the last seven days is 3.04%. The average has declined for eight days, from 3.57%.

Kentucky hospitals reported 411 Covid-19 patients, 14 fewer than Wednesday; 117 in intensive care (down 12); and 47 of those on a ventilator (down 3). 

Two of the state's 10 hospital-readiness regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds: the easternmost region, from Lee to Pike counties, at 85.3%, and Lake Cumberland, at 88.9%. 

The statewide rate of new cases over the last seven days is 9.31 cases per 100,000 residents. The rate has dropped for nine straight days, from 11.47. The New York Times ranks Kentucky's rate 23rd among the states, with a 10% drop in cases in the last 14 days. 

Counties with rates more than double the statewide rate are Powell, 37 per 100,000; Montgomery, 33; Webster, 30.9; Rockcastle, 28.2; Estill, 26.3; Bath, 26.3; Mason, 24.3; Adair, 23.1; Lewis, 22.6; Union, 21.9; Fleming, 21.6; Taylor, 21.1; Casey, 20.3; and  Fulton, 19.1.

The state's daily pandemic report shows seven more deaths from Covid-19, four from regular health- department reports and three from an ongoing audit of death certificates. The state's Covid-19 death toll is 6,637. 

The daily report lists the number and source of death reports, but not a list of fatalities by age, sex, county and date of death. That was included in the daily press releases that were discontinued this week.

In other pandemic news Thursday:
  • Counties with 10 or more new cases were Jefferson, 138; Fayette, 38; Pulaski, 30; Wayne, 27; Kenton, 26; Adair, 20; Hardin and Warren, 17; Daviess, 15; McCracken, 14; Boone, 12; Campbell, 11; Clark, Grant and Johnson, 10. 
  • In an effort to get more soldiers vaccinated, Fort Campbell's commander says unvaccinated troops will not be able to travel freely over the summer, Blake Farmer reports for WPLN, Nashville Public Radio. "Service members are able to turn down the vaccine at this point, since it only has emergency authorization from the FDA. Fort Campbell officers say roughly two-thirds of the installation has at least indicated they will get vaccinated. But they say that over the last two weeks, fewer and fewer have gotten their shot each day," Farmer reports.

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