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Beshear: Kentucky posting higher recent vaccination numbers

August 2, 2021 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s vaccination rate against COVID-19 has taken a sudden upward turn as people seek to protect themselves from the highly contagious delta variant that has caused the most coronavirus cases in months, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.

The delta variant is “spreading like wildfire” and puts the unvaccinated at significant risk, the governor warned, adding: “Please, go get vaccinated.”

In the past three days, more than 22,000 Kentuckians have heeded such calls and received a dose of the potentially life-saving vaccine, Beshear said. Last week, nearly 41,000 Kentuckians received the shot — about half the total number of vaccinations during a four-week stretch in July, he said.

The governor referred to the recent increase in vaccinations as “glimmers of hope” in the fight against the aggressive delta variant.

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“I hope we are seeing a spike,” Beshear said at a news conference, referring to the vaccination data. “I think before I call it a spike, I’d like to see a lot more. But we are headed in the right direction in terms of our vaccine numbers for the first time in several months.”

The Democratic governor continued pressing for grassroots efforts to increase vaccinations, urging those who are vaccinated to talk to their unvaccinated friends and neighbors about getting the shot.

“You might be the only person that they trust and that they’ll listen to,” Beshear said. “And you might be the only person that can break through and get them that protection.”

Kentucky reported 1,052 new coronavirus cases Monday. The rate of Kentuckians testing positive for COVID-19 has increased for 38 straight days and reached 9.77% on Monday, Beshear said. That rate had dipped below 2% in June.

Nearly 800 coronavirus patients were hospitalized Monday in Kentucky, including 250 patients in intensive care units. Seventy-four of Kentucky’s 120 counties are reported to be in the red zone — signaling a severe level of community spread, the governor said.

Kentucky has been dealing with its highest numbers of virus cases since February, when most people didn’t yet have access to the vaccine, Beshear said. Now, with the vaccine widely available, he said, the virus’s spread can be stopped by getting the shot and adhering to some “temporary masking.”

Meanwhile, universal masking will be required in all state-run health care facilities, including veterans nursing homes, said state Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander.

Also, unvaccinated employees in those facilities will be tested for the virus at least twice weekly as a precaution to protect residents and staff, he said. Officials also are hoping that serves as an incentive for those employees to get vaccinated.

“Despite all of our efforts, this virus has claimed lives in our facilities, just as it has in facilities across America, and it threatens to do so again,” Friedlander said.