John Boyle

With coronavirus vaccination opportunities in Kentucky expected to ramp up in the coming weeks, health care experts and government officials are assessing the distribution process and potential new challenges.

Since becoming available in December, more than 12 million Americans have received a vaccine shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. About 39% of all doses distributed nationally have been administered.

Kentucky is ahead of the national average, administering 51.7% of the state’s doses so far to about 175,000 people. Dr. Paul McKinney, a professor and associate dean at University of Louisville’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, said the state is finding success in that aspect.

Jess Clark | WFPL

Gov. Andy Beshear announced plans on Thursday to significantly expand coronavirus vaccination opportunities beginning next month, on the same day he announced the state had crossed the 3,000 mark in fatalities. 

At a wide-ranging briefing, Beshear said he believes all k-12 personnel who agreed to be vaccinated will have received their first doses by the end of the first week of February. Second doses will follow in early March.

“This is really exciting,” Beshear said. “This means with something as important as vaccines, we’re actually beating deadlines – maybe even getting them partially done before we thought we’d be able to start.”

The Trump administration introduced new addiction treatment guidelines Thursday that give physicians more flexibility to prescribe a drug to patients struggling with opioid addiction.

Kentucky Suffers One Of COVID’s Deadliest Days Yet

Jan 14, 2021
J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky logged 4,560 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 47 deaths, marking one of the deadliest days of the pandemic thus far.

The new deaths due to COVID-19 amount to the third-highest total since the pandemic struck the commonwealth in March. Kentucky has lost a total of 2,991 residents to the new coronavirus.

Gov. Andy Beshear noted the looming, and “tragic,” milestone of 3,000 deaths.

“We can stop this,” Beshear said. “We need to wear masks. We need to follow the rules and restrictions, and now is not the time to pull away the authority that keeps us safe.”

Blake Farmer | WPLN

Tennessee lawmakers rarely debate consequential legislation in the first few days of a session. But the General Assembly is forgoing precedent to alter how the state’s Medicaid program receives federal funding, and in the process will be altering roughly a third of the state budget before the Biden administration takes over.

Passage is a given. The same Republican majority told TennCare to seek this so-called “block grant” for Medicaid, which has been a dream of conservatives. Now that dream is nearly reality.

But in less than a week, the country will have a Democrat in the White House, leading a party that has opposed block grants for Medicaid and argued that they only lead to cutting benefits and beneficiaries from programs.

Alexandra Kanik

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in his Tuesday briefing on coronavirus that state officials are still waiting to see how bad the post-holiday surge of new cases will be — even as the state reported 3,053 new cases. 

The state’s rate of positive tests for the virus rose above 12%.

“It’s higher than the last couple weeks, so we’re trying to determine where these numbers are going,” Beshear said. He said he suspects the surge is related to holiday gatherings, but added that White House information indicates Kentucky is in a plateau of new infections. 

 “Hopefully we’ll see a leveling off, but only the data over the next week is going to let us know,” Beshear said.

Kentucky Reaches 300,000 COVID-19 Cases

Jan 10, 2021
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Kentucky reached another milestone in the pandemic over the weekend. The state has surpassed 300,000 total cases of COVID-19.

The milestone arrived as the state legislature passed several bills that would curtail the governor’s powers during emergencies. In a message released on Saturday, Gov. Andy Behsear made clear his feelings on efforts to limit his powers during a pandemic. 

“This is not the time to hamper our ability to fight a deadly virus,” he said. 

The bills are now sitting on Beshear’s desk. He has 10 days to sign or veto the legislation before it becomes law.

With less than a dozen days left in power, the Trump administration on Friday approved a radically different Medicaid financing system in Tennessee. With this move, the federal government is for the first time granting a state broader authority in the operation of its health insurance program for the poor without interference from Washington, allowing Tennessee to make decisions on such issues as whether to add new benefits or eligibility categories or spend Medicaid dollars outside of health care, if it thinks that would help enrollees.

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky’s three worst days of the coronavirus pandemic have all come this week.

Gov. Andy Beshear reported 4,750 cases Friday, the third-highest total of the pandemic. It comes two days after Kentucky set a new record for daily cases.

Beshear has reported 15,403 new cases over the past three days. He said the state is entering another acceleration in spread.

“We have successfully stopped three waves of this virus, but we are now seeing a real and significant increase in cases and our positivity rate from people’s gatherings around the holidays,” Beshear said.

The U.S. has for the first time recorded more than 4,000 deaths in one day from complications of COVID-19.

Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center reported 4,085 coronavirus-related deaths on Jan. 7, bringing the total U.S. death toll since the beginning of the pandemic to 365,882. Both figures continue to far outpace the virus' toll in other nations.

This time last year, the world was heading into a pandemic that would upend everything and cost 1.9 million lives — and counting. The promise of the new year is that vaccines are finally here and offer a way out.

J. Tyler Franklin

One day after COVID-19 cases reached a record high in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear reported 4,911 new cases Thursday.

Wednesday and Thursday have brought the worst case numbers of the pandemic in the state, with more than 10,000 cases between them. Beshear said the holidays played a role in the rising numbers. The effects of exposure tend to take a couple weeks to materialize in the numbers, state officials have said, and Christmas was two weeks ago.

“We are in a dangerous place,” Beshear said. “It is now clear that we are seeing an escalation related to holiday gatherings. This is not the time to make it harder to react to this virus when it may be surging again.”

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Gov. Andy Beshear announced 5,742 new cases of the coronavirus in Kentucky Wednesday, the highest single-day case record by far.

The previous highest day was about 4,300 cases, and the positivity rate of 11.7% is the highest since May. The governor also announced 34 new deaths on Wednesday.

“Today’s numbers show how critically important a centralized effort and response is to defeating this virus,” Beshear said in a press release.

Beshear did not hold a daily briefing Wednesday. He had planned to issue his state of the commonwealth address, but delayed it to Thursday after a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, interrupting the counting of electors that would name Joe Biden the official winner of the election.

Ryan Van Velzer

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced a new strategy to accelerate the state’s vaccine rollout Monday. He also unveiled a full schedule of vaccinations that would include all age groups and categories of workers.   

Like much of the country, the rate of Kentucky’s vaccine rollout is slower than officials anticipated. Kentucky’s long-term care and health care worker programs have so far received 174,750 doses, but only 35% of those doses were administered as of Sunday, Beshear said at his first in-person briefing of the new year.

“Let me be clear, I am not satisfied with the pace of vaccination here in Kentucky,” Beshear said. “While I think it is the same across the country that’s not what I was elected to do. I was elected to do my best for you.”

Blake Farmer | WPLN

Tennessee ended 2020 with more COVID deaths than some of the worst early predictions. And those same models now show fatalities in the state could double by April 1.

The state ended the year reporting nearly 7,000 confirmed and probable fatalities from COVID-19. That number will increase since there’s usually at least a two-week lag for reporting COVID deaths.

More than a third of the deaths were reported in the month of December, meaning the pandemic is still accelerating. Roughly 2,400 deaths were reported last month, making it the most deadly month of the pandemic — by far.