FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s governor called on school superintendents Friday to begin planning for the eventual distribution of coronavirus vaccines to their employees.
The latest development in the state’s plans to allocate the vaccine came as Gov. Andy Beshear reported more than 3,600 new coronavirus cases and 25 more virus-related deaths. Kentucky is approaching a milestone of 200,000 virus cases since the start of the pandemic.
The state’s initial shipment of about 38,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, expected in mid-December pending federal approval, will go to health care providers and nursing home residents and staff. After those groups, the state will then prioritize EMS workers and educators.
Beshear met virtually with school superintendents Friday, asking them to start preparing rosters of school personnel willing to be vaccinated.
“That recognizes the exposure (to the virus) that educators have within the building,” Beshear said. “But it also recognizes the absolute, critical importance of what they do and how much better in-person classes are.”
The Democratic governor said he’s unsure when educators will begin receiving vaccines.
Kentucky’s K-12 schools are under orders to halt in-person instruction. Middle and high schools will be required to continue remote instruction until January. Elementary schools can reopen Dec. 7 if they aren’t located in a “red-zone” county. Beshear said Thursday that 113 of Kentucky’s 120 counties are in the red zone — the most serious category for COVID-19 incidence rates.
The governor on Friday urged Kentuckians to keep up the fight against the virus by wearing masks in public, social distancing and following other health guidelines. Beshear this week extended the statewide mask mandate for another 30 days.
“These vaccines are right around the corner,” he said. “Within the next 10 days or so, we might be giving out the first vaccines. That means every loss of life and every extra infection that happens between now and then is entirely avoidable.”
About two-thirds of the initial shipment of 38,000 doses of vaccine are being reserved for nursing home staff and residents. Health care workers at 11 hospitals across Kentucky will receive the remaining 12,675 doses as part of the initial allocation, the governor said Thursday.
Meanwhile, Beshear on Friday reported 3,614 more virus cases, pushing the statewide total to more than 194,000 cases since the pandemic began. The 25 latest deaths raised the state’s death toll to at least 2,039. Kentucky is experiencing its worst trends of virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Nearly 1,800 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including 409 in intensive care units and 230 on ventilators, Beshear said. Some hospitals are being stretched “to the brink” as virus cases escalate, he warned this week.
The statewide rate for positive tests was 9.93%.
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.