FRANKFORT, Ky. (Monday, July 19, 2021) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, provided an update on the COVID-19 delta variant, a highly contagious strain that is spreading in the commonwealth.
“We have the most aggressive variant that we have seen to date in our battle against COVID. It’s a serious, even deadly, threat to unvaccinated Kentuckians,” said Gov. Beshear. “If more adults don’t get vaccinated, it’s not just adults who pay the price. It’s our kids who will. Many of them can’t get vaccinated yet, and they count on us to make good decisions and do the right thing.”
The Governor and Dr. Stack encouraged unvaccinated Kentuckians and Kentuckians in jobs that require consistent contact with the public to take additional precautions, including:
- All unvaccinated Kentuckians should wear masks indoors when not in their home;
- Kentuckians at higher risk from COVID-19 due to pre-existing conditions should wear masks indoors when not in their home;
- Vaccinated Kentuckians in jobs with significant public exposure should consider wearing a mask at work; and
- All unvaccinated Kentuckians, when eligible, should be vaccinated immediately.
“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.”
Dr. Stack discussed recent outbreaks that have occurred in other states, accelerated by the delta variant, including incidences in Illinois, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri.
Summer camps in Illinois and Texas were associated with COVID-19 outbreaks, including cases of the delta variant, which also infected six vaccinated guests at an outdoor wedding in Texas. Officials in Mississippi warned of a potential COVID-19 surge as seven children were hospitalized with severe cases of the virus. The Louisiana State Health Officer, Dr. Joseph Kanter, said that Louisiana is facing a statewide outbreak as the delta variant began spreading and as vaccination rates fell. Hospitals in Missouri have been understaffed and under-resourced as the delta variant continues to infect more people.
Vaccines appear to be highly effective against the delta variant. However, hospitalizations have surged more than 30% in the past two weeks and more than 80% in Nevada, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Nationwide, 97% of COVID-19 related hospitalizations are among those who have not yet been vaccinated.
“The delta variant is so contagious it will infect most unvaccinated people,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “It is going to be the most serious virus they will get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital.”
“I want to point out that Dr. Gottlieb was the FDA commissioner under the last president. We have never brought politics in to what we do with COVID. We want to make sure we listen to experts that cross party or administration,” said Gov. Beshear.
The Governor said to date, 2,248,235 Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Sixty-one percent of Kentuckians 18 or older have been vaccinated, but only 51% of Kentuckians age 40 to 49, 46% of Kentuckians age 30-39 and 36% of Kentuckians age 18 to 29.
All Kentuckians can sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment near where they live or work at vaccine.ky.gov.