Coronavirus Updates

‘Most aggressive variant’: Beshear, health officials concerned about Delta variant


July 19, 2021. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear provides a map showing the 83 counties that have a COVID-19 vaccination rate below 40%. (Photo Courtesy: Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s Office)

FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear says state health officials are concerned over the Delta variant of COVID-19 and three straight weeks of increasing cases in the Bluegrass State.

Beshear says the Delta variant is being contracted by many 40 to 49 year-olds, as well as younger age groups, and is affecting them more severely than the original strand of the virus. These younger age groups contracting the Delta variant are the least vaccinated in Kentucky. Because of this concern, state health officials are urging more Kentuckians to get vaccinated as virus cases in the state start to increase.

The governor says an estimated 2,248,235 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, for a total of approximately 61% of eligible people in the Bluegrass State vaccinated, with at least 83% of Kentuckians over the age of 65 fully vaccinated.

According to Beshear, the state is seeing the lowest incidence rate among those 65 and older because the age group has the highest rate of vaccination. Only 10 counties in the Bluegrass State have a vaccination rate of more than 50%, totaling about half the state’s vaccinated population. The state’s data shows 83 of the state’s 120 counties, including Lewis, Greenup, Carter, Boyd, Elliot, Lawrence, Johnson, Martin, Floyd and Pike counties in our region, have a vaccination rate of less than 40%.

July 19, 2021. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear shows a chart of vaccination rates by age group in the state. (Photo Courtesy: Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s Office)

“Where you see the least amount of vaccination, is where you see the most cases of the Delta variant,” Beshear said.

Beshear and state health officials are giving new recommendations for wearing masks to keep the virus from spreading:

  • Those who are unvaccinated should wear a mask in public.
  • Those who have severe health problems or a compromised immune system should wear a mask even if they are vaccinated
  • Those who must work around large groups of people should wear a mask even if vaccinated to lower the risk of exposure and a potential breakthrough case of the virus.

While officials are offering these recommendations, the governor says he and state health officials are not planning to reinstate a mask mandate.

Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner for the Kentucky Department for Public Health, say the most effective way to combat the Delta variant and for Kentuckians to protect themselves from contracting the virus is for more people to get vaccinated.

“When we get vaccinated, not only do we protect ourselves, but the entire community overall,” Stack said.

Stack says a major component of an individual’s risk of contracting the Delta variant is the number of people they are around each day increases their chance of spreading the virus to others who are vulnerable even if they don’t contract it themselves.

“Getting vaccinated is a choice,” said Dr. Stack. “We’ve said that all along. It’s your choice. It’s an incredibly important choice. It’s a choice that should you choose to get vaccinated, you protect yourself and also all the others who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated because the more of us who are vaccinated, the less the virus is able to spread, to infect people and to hurt people. If you choose not to get vaccinated, that is your choice as well, but it is a particularly dangerous choice.”

Kentuckians who do get vaccinated are eligible for the state’s “Shot at a Million” vaccine lottery. The deadline to sign up for the second drawing is next Wednesday, July 28.

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