FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday that trends in the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be positive, and the state is gearing up for federal regulatory approval for vaccine boosters and vaccines for children ages 5-11.
“Hospitalizations have now decreased 19% over the last seven days,” he said during a Capitol press conference. “We’re down to 57 hospitals that are reporting critical staffing shortages, though we don’t believe those staffing shortages are as bad as they have been.”
The Kentucky National Guard still has a presence in 20 hospitals across the state with over 300 service members still on duty. As the delta-variant surge has waned, the numbers have diminished from over 500, and the Governor discussed that. “What’s expected is that we’ll begin, as hospitals get in another place, is to draw down some but not all of our deployed Guardsmen and women to ensure that those hospitals, when there are flare-ups or they’re still particularly hit hard, have the support they need.”
He said he wanted to balance that against letting the Guard members go back to their homes, their communities, and their regular jobs once the situation allows.
Beshear said there are 182 ICU beds available across the state currently. That’s quite a few less than the nearly 100 at one point due to the delta variant, with several hospitals having to convert surgeries and other rooms into ICUs to handle the crush of seriously ill COVID patients.
The governor said he knows that some school systems are going mask optional, which is something he opposes. “We know, and we have seen, that will increase COVID in your area. I do believe there will be a time, during the course of this entire school year, when that is possible and safe. But with vaccines on the horizon for 5-11 year-olds, hold on. Don’t punt on third down.”
He noted the decision on booster shots for those who have had Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines is imminent, as well as expanding Pfizer authorization for younger children, and the state will be ready the following day.
“People ought to be ready to go to the places currently offering the adult vaccine. Think about all the places that are out there. I’m likely to sign my daughter up at one of the pharmacies here in Frankfort.”
He added there is so much vaccination capacity currently there will be no need to re-establish the regional centers like there were earlier this year when the vaccines first became available.