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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Kentucky To Open Vaccine Access To Phase 1C In March

Ryan Van Velzer
Credit Ryan Van Velzer

More than a million Kentuckians will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 1 when Gov. Andy Beshear says regional distribution centers will enter distribution phase 1C.

The state is expanding access to the vaccine following a sixth week of declining cases. Residents over the age of 60, those withhigh-risk health conditionsandessential workers all fallunder phase 1C — marking the single largest increase in access to date in the commonwealth.

Beshear said it’s an exciting moment, but with vaccine supplies still limited the state will first prioritize Kentuckians between the ages of 60 and 70.

“Understand there’s a lot of people in 1C,” Beshear said. “It means it may be challenging to get signed up in the beginning, but remember a lot of vaccine is on its way.”

Previously certain distribution sites have dipped into phase 1C, in order to meet deadlines for administering the vaccine, but March 1 would mark the first time that as many as 1 to 1.3 million Kentuckians would have access to the vaccine at regional distribution centers, Beshear said.

Getting Vaccines To Kentuckians

Each week, the state receives roughly 110,000 to 115,000 doses of vaccine from the federal government, Beshear said. Supplies dropped last week because of the winter weather across the country, but Beshear said the state will catch up in the next couple weeks and accelerate in the coming months as pharmaceutical companies increase production.

o date, the state has administered about 98.5% of every first dose it has received – enough for 583,754 residents. The federal program vaccinating people in long-term care settings is wrapping up, and the state continues to increase the number of vaccination sites.

Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack said there are now more than 360 locations across the state ready to administer vaccines including pharmacies, community health centers, local health departments and regional distribution centers.

Stack said he’s hopeful that the state’s most vulnerable residents will receive a vaccine in the coming months.

“Even though I know the next four to six weeks will feel like it’s just not quite as effortless as we would like, by the time we get to the mid-spring and the late spring I think that you will find we will have vaccinated a great deal of people,” Stack said.

However, the state continues to trail on equitable distribution of that vaccine with only 4.46% of vaccinationsgoing toward Black Kentuckians despitemaking up around 8.1% of the state’s population. Beshear acknowledged the discrepancy and said the state is adding pop-up vaccine administration events to increase equity.

Declining Cases

Beshear announced13 deathsand 530 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, which is the lowest daily case total the state has seen since Oct. 5. 

Those figures may be impacted by lower testing because of last week’s weather, but overall COVID-19 impacts are trending downwards. The state is seeing fewer COVID hospitalizations, fewer patients in intensive care units, fewer people on ventilators and fewer deaths.

Only one hospital region covering 10 counties in the southern part of the state remains with an ICU capacity over 80%, Beshear said Monday.  

As the country surpassed500,000 total deaths from COVID-19, Beshear urged Kentuckians to continue to follow health guidelines.

“So let’s all remain compassionate, let’s all remember we’ve got to love one another and be patient with another,” Beshear said. “While I hope that we are months away, I still hope for summer for the end of this virus, it’s going to take a little longer for our collective grief to be processed.” 

Copyright 2021 WKU Public Radio

Ryan Van Velzer