Gov. Beshear says he wants to receive COVID-19 vaccine in public

Posted at 11:50 AM, Sep 17, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday that he is willing to roll up his sleeves to be vaccinated in public to show his confidence in the safety of COVID-19 vaccines once they become available.

The Democratic governor urged patience even as federal health agencies and the Defense Department have sketched out plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or even late this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a shot.

“We do have to let the science take its course,” Beshear said. “And we do have to make sure it’s safe. Because I’m going to be asked to sign a form for my kids on it. And I intend to do that. I intend to do that when I know it’s safe.”

Beshear, the father of two children, said he’ll discuss the matter with Kentuckians when the time comes. And that includes setting a public example once a safe and effective shot is developed.

“My plan is still to take the vaccine right here at 4 o’clock someday to show people that I believe that it’s safe,” the governor told reporters.

Beshear made the comments during his coronavirus briefing in the state Capitol Rotunda. Those briefings typically begin at 4 p.m. ET.

The whole enterprise still faces public skepticism nationally. Only about half of Americans said they’d get vaccinated, according to an Associated Press-NORC poll taken in May.

Since then, questions have only mounted about whether the government is trying to rush treatments and vaccines to help President Donald Trump’s reelection chances.

In Kentucky, officials are in the process of developing plans for the eventual storage and distribution of COVID vaccines once they become available, the governor said.

Meanwhile, Beshear reported 776 new coronavirus cases and eight more virus-related deaths Wednesday, raising the statewide death count to 1,082 since the pandemic began. The latest victims ranged in age from a 49-year-old woman in Christian County to an 88-year-old man from Union County, the governor said. The total number of virus cases statewide surpassed 58,760.

Kentucky’s positivity rate — a rolling figure reflecting the average number of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 — was 3.89%, staying below 4% for a second straight day, he said.

“What we are seeing is we still have higher case numbers than we’d like to see,” Beshear said. “But we don’t, at the moment, see those accelerating from last week or the week before. That’s a good thing. We see our positivity rate coming down some, and that’s a good thing.”

But he warned that high case numbers can result in increased deaths.

“Let’s make sure that we not only are keeping that positivity rate down, we actually get our cases moving down because Kentuckians’ lives depend on it,” the governor said.

Mark Carter, a former health care industry executive who is leading Kentucky’s contact tracing efforts, said nearly 400 more workers have been added to the staff since July. They include contact tracers, disease investigators, regional team members and social support coordinators.

“This brings our total to 1,240 staff members who are not only trained to trace the spread of COVID-19, but to also help our local communities with the support and resources needed to successfully quarantine and monitor their symptoms,” he said Wednesday.

Carter reiterated the process that people can expect if they’re determined to have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, including initial contact by their local health department. He urged people to provide the information requested and take the steps suggested to keep themselves and others safe.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.