Another surge not ‘written in stone,’ but COVID decline over in Kentucky

Kentucky held off the case plateau longer than other states, but at last it appears to have arrived.

Gov. Beshear updates Kentucky’s vaccine rollout, COVID in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky (FOX19) - Kentucky’s months-long decline in new cases of COVID-19 appears to have bottomed out.

The commonwealth recorded 4,377 new cases last week, or 181 more than the week before.

That incremental increase is the first since early January, snapping a 12-week streak of declining cases that followed the post-holiday surge.

Kentucky’s case decline lasted longer than many other states due to steps taken in late November, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. Those steps, such as closing indoor dining and advising fully remote instruction, broke up infection chains early in the surge, flattening it out over a period of months and, in the process, avoiding an overwhelmed healthcare system.

Case declines in states like Ohio bottomed out — that is, plateaued — weeks ago. Other states like Michigan and Florida have begun to see cases increase again, and cases are up countrywide, potentially leading to the fourth case surge of the pandemic.

Kentucky doesn’t appear to be on that track right now, as indicated by its low positivity rate. The rate, a forward-looking indicator that can project where case counts will be days or weeks ahead, has kept stable at around 2.9 percent since mid March.

“What we believe at this point is that we have hit a plateau,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday, “that we are not currently in an escalation.”

Beshear said Monday a fourth surge is “absolutely possible. At the same time, he insisted “it is not written in stone” Kentucky will see one.

As before, the governor framed it as a race of vaccinations against variants, referring to the more transmissible forms of COVID-19 that have resulted in more hospitalizations among young, healthy adults countrywide than the original virus strain.

Kentucky currently has 83 lab-confirmed cases of the UK variant, double last week’s report.

“We all need to get vaccinated as soon as we can so fewer variants have the opportunity to form,” said Kentucky Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack. “We’ve got to stay vigilant. Wear your masks, wash your hands, socially distance and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”

Meanwhile, the commonwealth is outpacing all its neighbor states in vaccine delivery.

Currently 1,438,577 Kentuckians have gotten at least one dose, or 40.5 percent of all adults.

But the governor on Monday mentioned early concerns that vaccine demand appears to be slowing, something he’s hopeful is an artifact of the holiday weekend.

As of Monday, all Kentucky adults aged 16 and up are eligible to get a vaccine.

“This means Kentucky has beaten by a full month President Joe Biden’s goal and timeline for all Americans 16 and up being able to get the vaccine,” Beshear said. “These vaccines are our ticket out of this pandemic. They are not only safe; they are saving lives.”

Kentucky recorded 299 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 Sunday and 110 Monday.

Five new virus-related deaths were reported Sunday, and four were reported Monday. The state’s ongoing COVID mortality audit also surfaced nine virus-related deaths Sunday and four Monday.

Domestic Travel

Beshear on Monday announced Kentucky had updated its guidance on domestic travel to mirror the CDC’s newly issued recommendations.

Fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States and do not need COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine as long as they continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling — wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, socially distancing and washing hands frequently.

“If you are not vaccinated, it is not safe for you,” Beshear affirmed. “Not even remotely.”

Task Force on Unemployment Insurance Fraud

Beshear also announced an executive order creating the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Fraud Detection and Prevention Task Force, which will coordinate between state and federal entities to detect, investigate, prosecute and prevent unemployment insurance fraud in Kentucky.

“Like many other states across the country, Kentucky has seen a surge in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims,” Beshear said. “This task force will bring together the needed resources to combat this scourge.”

The increase in fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance has been a national problem with more than $63 billion in fraudulent benefits paid out countrywide, according to Beshear. The required response is be multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional.

Task force members appointed by the Governor include:

  • The commissioner of the Kentucky State Police;
  • The executive director of the Kentucky Department of Homeland Security;
  • The secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet;
  • The state’s chief information officer; and
  • The executive director of the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance.

Additionally, the task force may include representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Secret Service, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Diplomatic Service, the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General or other investigative entities the Governor may deem appropriate.

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