Gov. Beshear urges vaccinations as dreaded 4th wave grows more likely

The next 30 days could be the most important of the pandemic in Kentucky.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Vaccine uptake appears to have slowed in Kentucky since the rip-roaring days of early March, leading to a precarious situation ahead of a potential fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.

Not since the week beginning March 9 has the state achieved its goal of administering 90 percent of the vaccine doses it receives each week.

The week beginning April 6, just 125,573 doses were administered of 278,810 received — just 45 percent.

Reporting delays due to a Department for Public Health security update could explain last week’s low vaccination numbers, but they don’t explain low numbers each of the two preceding weeks.

As of Thursday, a vaccine supply glut exists in Kentucky of 499,735 available first doses — all Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

That compares with 1,622,924 first doses administered so far, or 46 percent of Kentuckians 16 and older.

The apparent slowdown could push Kentucky’s return to normalcy farther down the road.

Last week, Gov. Andy Beshear announced a threshold of 2.5 million vaccinations (70 percent of the adult population) for dropping capacity and hours restrictions on Kentucky businesses. Masking would remain in effect and mass gatherings would still be limited until COVID-19 variants are under control and more Kentucky children are able to be vaccinated.

The state is 877,076 doses from hitting the threshold as of Thursday.

If every available appointment is taken over the next three weeks, Kentucky could get to around 2.42 million by the end of the first week of May and be poised to drop the health orders sometime around May 12.

But unless the governor’s goal significantly quickens vaccine uptake, that doesn’t seem likely. Beshear acknowledged as much on Monday, saying a more realistic timeline is late May.

“This is right there,” he said in Thursday’s briefing. “This is ours for the taking. The power is ultimately in your hands. Let’s get this done.”

Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 are increasing in Kentucky after a brief plateau that followed a steep, months-long decline.

“This is at least a warning that a fourth wave is possible here. But we can prevent it. We should prevent it,” Beshear said, later adding: “The way we defeat this virus is vaccines.”

Total cases this week in Kentucky are likely to be greater than the preceding week for just the second time since the post-holiday surge.

Thursday Kentucky recorded 834 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 17 new virus-related deaths.

The positivity rate and hospital data also continue to creep up.

The current positivity rate is 3.45, up a half-point since bottoming out around 2.8 just days ago.

Currently 416 Kentuckians are hospitalized with COVID-19, of which 102 are in ICUs and 49 are on ventilators.

The data aren’t as dire as elsewhere in the country, thanks in part to steps Beshear took months ago that effectively flattened out the post-holiday surge. But buying time against the virus to get to herd immunity only works if enough people get the vaccine fast enough.

That figures to be the lesson of the next 30 days. How they play out remains an open question.

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