Governor Beshear holds conference on Delta variant, emphasizes importance of vaccines

Emily Girard

Governor Andy Beshear held a special press conference Monday to discuss the Delta variant of COVID-19 and its impact on Kentucky.

Beshear said that current COVID-19 vaccines are still offering “significant protection” against the Delta variant, the current dominant COVID-19 strain in Kentucky. However, the variant is still causing COVID-19 cases in Kentucky to rise. Though Beshear said this news is “concerning,” he is still positive about Kentucky’s vaccination efforts and their effects.

“We have now had three straight weeks of increasing cases, and the rate of that increase is also increasing,” he said. “We are seeing an increase in hospitalizations, but we are not seeing an increase of the same magnitude in hospitalization, ICU, or deaths.”

Kentucky has administered more than 4.1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, resulting in over 2 million vaccinated Kentuckians. 61% of Kentuckians 18 and older have been vaccinated.

Beshear said that people under 40 are most vulnerable to the Delta variant, as these age groups have the lowest vaccination rates. He also showed data that only 10 Kentucky counties have more than half of their population vaccinated. He emphasized the impact on young children and unvaccinated people that these low rates cause.

“The former FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, said…if you’re not vaccinated, and you haven’t had COVID…you should expect to get the Delta variant, and you should expect it to be the most serious illness that you will ever have in your life,” Beshear said. “You can make a very easy decision to never have that illness.

Beshear stressed that these increases in cases are now preventable and pushed all eligible Kentuckians to get vaccinated.

“You can help us beat this thing. You can help us get back to a full normal,” he said. “You can stop seeing me do these [press conferences]—whichever one motivates you, if you go out and get vaccinated.”

Along with this, Beshear recommended that unvaccinated people and people with pre-existing conditions wear masks indoors, and vaccinated people who have jobs including “significant public exposure” wear masks as well.

Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, also spoke at the conference. He explained how COVID-19 vaccines prevent disease transmission by decreasing viral load in a person. This way, even if a vaccinated person is exposed to COVID-19, they will have a lower chance of transmitting it.

“The more of us who are vaccinated, the less haven the virus has to spread, to infect people, and to hurt people,” Stack said. “If you choose not to get vaccinated, that is your choice…but it is a particularly dangerous choice…for the broader community.”

Beshear then answered questions from the press. He addressed that though some federal benefits implemented during the pandemic are ending, there are still opportunities for Kentuckians to receive aid.

“Kentuckians need to know that extra unemployment benefits are going to end…at the latest, September 6,” Beshear said. “We still have a huge amount of money in our Team Kentucky Eviction Relief Fund that is there for every Kentuckian that has been struggling on their rent.”