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Last week, the KRDHD started administering the COVID-19 vaccine Moderna to first responders and frontline workers in their service area. Perry County Sheriff Joe Engle, along with many other local leaders, received the vaccine.

On Dec. 29, officials with the Kentucky River District Health Department began phase 1A of the COVID-19 vaccination process, and have since expanded into phase 1B.

Scott Lockard, public health director of the KRDHD, said the KRDHD recently lost their regional epidemiologist and has had to change the format of their daily case summary and updates. Instead of listing the total, active, recovered and deaths, the KRDHS currently has to base case information on what the state is reporting and those numbers were behind.

“We’re trying to reconcile our data with the state,” said Lockard. “The reason we had to change (the format) is we lost our regional epidemiologist and they told me it’s going to be probably 90 days before they could get me a new epi. So the person that was doing all that for me before, we don’t have now. The state epi team is what is providing that now.”

Lockard said that with the change of format, the KRDHD has shifted focus to vaccinating the community in phases.

“We are focused now on vaccinating, so instead of just reporting numbers and doing surveillance, we are now actively engaged in vaccinating first responders,” said Lockard. “We have so many first responders we had to spread it out.

“Our hospital has been working on the hospital staff and healthcare workers,” said Lockard. “ARH is doing a great job about that. Primary Care Center has vaccinated all their staff,” he said. “We’re working to get that disseminated as best as we can.”

Long-term care facilities are a primary focus, he said.

“The nursing homes have accounted for about 70 percent of the deaths associated with COVID-19, so that’s the most vulnerable population. If we can get them vaccinated the residents and staff at our long-term care facilities that will help out a lot,” said Lockard, adding that there is also a statewide contract with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate LTCs.

The KRDHD, said Lockard, began holding vaccination clinics at the Perry County Health Department on Dec. 29.

“Of course it is a holiday week, so it is a challenging time to get people in but we’re working as hard as we can to get the vaccine out as quick as we can,” said Lockard, adding that the KRDHD scheduled COVID-19 vaccination clinics for all counties in their service area between the week of Dec. 28-Jan. 1 and the week of Jan. 4-8.

“I’m just so excited about 2021 and us starting off the year vaccinating folks against this virus, and that we’re going to see the number of deaths dramatically decline,” said Lockard.

On Monday, Jan. 4, Gov. Andy Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, provided an update on the COVID-19 vaccine and announced that Kentuckians will be inoculated in four phases. Beshear said the state’s goal is to administer 90 percent of all vaccine doses received in the state within seven days of arrival and that the newly announced additional phases provide clarity on when more Kentuckians can get the vaccine. The phases also help providers understand what order vaccines should be administered in, which is crucial if they are having challenges meeting the 90 percent weekly goal or if they have extra thawed vaccine.

The planned vaccination phases, said Beshear and Stack, are: Phase 1A, which includes long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, health care personnel (employees and staff); Phase 1B, which includes first responders, Kentuckians age 70 or older, K-12 school personnel; Phase 1C: Kentuckians age 60 or older, anyone older than 16 who meets the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highest-risk conditions for COVID-19 and all essential workers; Phase 2, which consists of anyone aged older than 40; Phase 3, consisting of anyone older than 16 years of age; and Phase 4, which includes children under the age of 16 if the vaccine is approved for this age group (estimated to comprise 18 percent of Kentucky’s population). Frontline essential workers include healthcare personnel, first responders (firefighters and police), corrections officers, education employees (including support staff and daycare staff), food and agriculture employees, manufacturing employees, U.S. postal service workers, public transit workers and grocery store workers. Other essential workers include transportation and logistics employees, food service, shelter and housing (construction), finance, IT and communication, energy, media, legal, public safety (engineers) and water and wastewater workers.

Beshear said that as of Monday, approximately 60,414 vaccine doses have already been administered in Kentucky. This week, said Beshear, 57,000 doses will be delivered, with 27,300 doses from Pfizer and 29,700 doses from Moderna.

As of Jan. 4, the KRDHD has a total of 1,632 cases with 17 new cases on Jan. 4, 17 deceased in the county and an incidence rate of 61.0. For more information, call, (800) 722-5725, or visit, www.kycovid19.ky.gov.