health

Updated July 27, 2021 at 3:09 PM ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance on wearing masks Tuesday. In a reversal of its earlier position, the agency is now recommending that some fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors if they live in areas with significant or high spread.

Corrine Boyer

With weeks to go before the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, state officials say the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 has led to a quintupling of new cases since the beginning of July, mostly among unvaccinated people.

Monday afternoon, Gov. Andy Beshear took to the podium with state education leaders to urge school districts to adopt mask requirements, but didn’t mandate they do so.

“Our priority is not to play politics, our priority isn’t to do some red or blue thing, or get involved in some ridiculous so-called culture war. Our priority: It’s our kids, and it is having them in class every day,” Beshear said.

Beshear said he was issuing three “clear recommendations” or “expectations,” which are in line with the July 15 guidance from the Kentucky Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Breya Jones

The front lawn of the Capitol building in Frankfort served as the backdrop for the “Worldwide Freedom Rally” on Saturday, where attendees railed against the unlikely possibility of mandated vaccines and the governor’s COVID-19 response.

The rally was held by America’s Frontline Doctors, a right-wing medical professionals organization. According to the organization, today’s rally was supposed to take place at several state capitols across the nation.  

The event’s speakers addressed critical race theory, concerns about communism in the US and the Kentucky government’s response to COVID-19. 

There was general fear about government-sponsored vaccine mandates, particularly requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for students attending public school, despite there being no discussion about that currently.

Ryan Van Velzer

Kentucky reported for the first time Thursday the number of COVID-19 cases affecting the state’s vaccinated population.

The state reported 2,795 breakthrough cases of COVID-19 from March through July 21, representing less than 5% of total cases in that time period, said Gov. Andy Beshear at a press conference on Thursday.

Officials cautioned that number is likely an undercount because only those with the most severe symptoms are likely getting tested, and the vaccine is effective at preventing serious illness. Beshear said the low numbers of cases in vaccinated people demonstrates the vaccine’s effectiveness.

“Ninety-five percent of all positive cases were among unvaccinated individuals. That is an enormous statistic,” Beshear said.

Lisa Autry

It’s campaign season in Kentucky and the rest of the country, but not in the political sense. 

A vaccination campaign is underway against highly contagious coronavirus variants that are particularly a threat to unvaccinated individuals.  As Kentucky marks three consecutive weeks of increasing COVID-19 cases, the key to beating the virus remains winning the undecideds. 

The Bluegrass State confirmed more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest single-day increase the commonwealth has seen since March 11.  On top of that, the Delta variant has become the dominant and most aggressive strain in the state.  Given that it's more fatal than other variants,  Myrna Denny decided it was time to get vaccinated. 

“Relax, deep breath. Relax those shoulders," instructed a healthcare worker at Denny's appointment.

Denny was at a mass vaccination clinic run by the Medical Center in Bowling Green.  She’d been hesitant to get the shot after having an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine several years.

Shalina Chatlani | WPLN News (File)

COVID hospitalizations have doubled in Tennessee since the Fourth of July — from 195 to 408. It’s a manageable number — given hospitals cared for more than 3,300 COVID patients at one point in January — but a worrying trend in a state with less than 40% of residents fully vaccinated.

The Tennessee Department of Health says 97% of the new COVID cases are among people who had not been vaccinated. And for most of those who get sick after vaccination, like Beth Downey of Nashville did this month, they almost certainly won’t need to be hospitalized. She says her symptoms were mild enough to pass for allergies.

“Due to traveling to see family, I thought just to be safe, go get a COVID test. And lo and behold, it was positive,” she says.

Delta Variant Fueling Rise In Kentucky COVID-19 Cases

Jul 20, 2021
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Cases of COVID-19 are again on the rise in Kentucky prompting Gov. Andy Beshear to issue a new round of recommendations to combat the spread of the Delta variant.  

New cases have nearly tripled in Kentucky since late June with 2,992 cases reported last week. The positivity rate, which in recent months dipped below 1%, is now at 5.48%. State health experts estimate more than half of all new cases are attributable to the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than the original virus. 

The Delta variant poses the greatest risk to unvaccinated Kentuckians, though higher case counts also encompass a higher number of “breakthrough cases,” where vaccinated people come down with the virus.

Public Health Commission Dr. Steven Stack said the more unvaccinated people in a population, the greater the risk is for everyone, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to contract the virus. But the inverse is also true. As the number of vaccinations increased from March through June, the overall number of infections decreased.

WPLN News

Tennessee’s top vaccine official says she has been fired as punishment for doing her job in the face of political pushback.

Dr. Michelle Fiscus was caught up in a controversy after she passed along legal guidance to health providers saying teenagers do not need parents’ consent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot — a position established by decades of state law.

“Specifically, it was MY job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19,” Fiscus said in a scathing statement about her firing. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”

Tennessee’s leaders have betrayed the public trust, Fiscus says, accusing them of putting their own political gains ahead of the people’s well-being. She defended her colleagues in the health sector who have been fighting the pandemic — and she notably took umbrage that a lawmaker had called the state health department’s actions “reprehensible.”

Ryan Van Velzer

After the firing of Tennessee’s top vaccine expert, Nashville Democratic Representative John Ray Clemmons is calling for an explanation from the governor and the health commissioner. He says the firing is a “slap in the face” to government employees, and worries it will make it difficult to hire a qualified replacement.

Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the now-former medical director at the Tennessee Department of Health, gave the Tennessean a copy of her termination letter, which doesn’t explain why she was fired on Monday. Fiscus says that she was a scapegoat to appease state lawmakers, who threatened to dissolve the state health department for encouraging teenagers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Her name came up in a June hearing because of a letter sent from her office to doctors around the state.

Stu Johnson | WEKU

Kentucky is seeing an increase in coronavirus cases.  State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said Thursday the latest tally revealed about 100 new cases more than the week before.

Stack said the coronavirus positivity rate has gone up more than one percent over that time. “The positivity rate is going up and the cases are going up. Now the real question will be: will the vaccines help to keep those at lower levels, and will it keep the hospitals and the ICU’S from getting filled up, and will it keep people safe and protected serious permanent harm and or death?” 

While there are 26 confirmed Delta variant COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth, state officials believe the true number of Delta cases is higher.

Dollar General

Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, is launching into health care, starting with the hiring of a “chief medical officer.” In its announcement this week, the discount retailer with 17,000 stores hinted at offering in-store services on a large scale.

Industry leader Walmart has already announced plans for thousands of primary care “supercenters” in stores and has been getting approval for in-store clinics in several states. By comparison, Dollar General has smaller stores primarily in more rural communities, which often lack hospitals or even walk-in clinics.

“At Dollar General, we are always looking for new ways to serve, and our customers have told us that they would like to see increased access to affordable healthcare products and services in their communities,” CEO Todd Vasos says in a statement. “Our goal is to build and enhance affordable healthcare offerings for our customers, especially in the rural communities we serve.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/OpenFile Vancour

The Muhlenberg County Health Department is providing free Naloxone kits and training for those wanting to learn how to help people who have overdosed on opioids.

Carolyn Bullock works at the health department, and says the nasal kits are designed to be an easy and quick way for family, friends, and first responders to provide life-saving help to someone who overdosed.

“It attaches to the same part of the brain as the opioid, so it blocks their effect for about 30 to 90 minutes, and gives you time to get them emergency help, and it reverses the symptoms that would otherwise lead to death.”

Those wanting to learn how to administer Naloxone can attend one of two virtual information sessions being offered by the health department on Thursday.

Bullock says those wanting the training and naloxone kits can attend the virtual sessions without giving their name. Those who complete one of the training sessions will have a free naloxone kit mailed to them.

Studies have found that Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against several variants of concern, including the delta variant, the biotech company announced.

Moderna said Tuesday that recently completed studies have found the vaccine to have a neutralizing effect against all COVID-19 variants tested, including the beta, delta, eta and kappa variants.

First Christian Church of Owensboro

While many parts of Kentucky, and the nation, are reporting lower demand for COVID-19 vaccines, one partnership in Owensboro is offering a drive-through vaccination clinic Thursday.

The partnership includes the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, Green River District Health Department, and First Christian Church.

Chamber President Candace Castlen Brake says she’s hoping this clinic is as successful as the previous one her group sponsored.

“The last one we had, the health department team had to go back and get more J&J’s,” Brake said, referring to the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “Because a lot of men were coming to get the single vaccinations, and they could do it there, and if they had a little bit of anxiety, it was more private, because they got to sit in their car.”

A new study estimates that life expectancy in the U.S. decreased by nearly two years between 2018 and 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And the declines were most pronounced among minority groups, including Black and Hispanic people.

In 2018, average life expectancy in the U.S. was about 79 years (78.7). It declined to about 77 years (76.9) by the end of 2020, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

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