As he pleaded with Kentuckians to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Andy Beshear announced 645 new cases of the virus, along with 16 deaths from as far back as July, October, September and December.
“We are in an absolute race with variants to prevent any type of fourth surge,” the governor said in a live update. “We need you to sign up for whichever vaccine is available.”
The positivity rate is 2.81 percent.
After an 11-week decline in cases, the number of new infections across the state plateaued last week. It’s cause for concern, Beshear said earlier this week, even though more than a quarter of the adult population is at least partially immunized.
More than 1,510,000 people have gotten at least their first dose — 125,510 of whom did so last week. The state has the capacity to vaccinate more than 200,000 people a week.
But demand hasn’t quite met the increasing supply yet, Beshear said. “While we vaccinated 125,510 new Kentuckians, we received about 214,000 new doses,” which means tens of thousands of doses were not immediately claimed. The state expects to receive 278,810 new doses this week.
“What that means is there are open appointments, not because we’re not vaccinating still at a steady pace,” he said, “but because we’re getting more vaccine.”
Several of Kentucky’s larger vaccination sites have reported having “thousands” of open vaccine slots this month, including the University of Kentucky’s site at Kroger Field. Additionally next week, the Kentucky Horse Park has 1,800 openings; Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium has 11,000 openings; Greenwood Mall in Bowling Green has 2,000; and both the Pikeville Medical Center and Christian County Health Department have 1,000 openings.
This week, the federal government shipped 600,000 of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines across the country — only 7,800 of which were allocated to the commonwealth, Beshear said, as he asked Kentuckians not to shop for vaccines.
“We can’t have people waiting for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” he said.
Unemployment system shut down
Due to a “massive amount of fraud” hitting unemployment systems across the country, including in Kentucky, the Labor Cabinet will shut down the state’s unemployment system for four days to tighten system-wide security, starting Thursday at midnight.
“This is organized fraud, often [committed] by cyber criminals who are located overseas, [who are] filing fraudulent claims as well as now moving into attempts to break into existing accounts and steal the benefits being rewarded to proper claimants,” said Amy Cubbage, legal counsel for the Labor Cabinet.
“We hate that we have to do this, but these criminals are relentless,” she said.
Between tonight at midnight and Monday at midnight, no new claims can be filed, Cubbage said. Though the UI system will be shut down on the front end, staff will continue to process claims that were previously filed.
Cubbage said there were attempts to change 300,000 pin numbers on claimants’ personal accounts. Accessing some accounts was easy, because pin numbers were predictable. Close to 4,000 claimants set their pin as 1234, and 1,500 people chose the pin 2020.
When the system is rebooted next week, claimants will need to set up a new account and 12-character password; use a new eight-digit pin they will receive in the mail from the Labor Cabinet; and verify their identity across platforms. Active claimants will not need to file new claims.
Visit uiclaimsportal.ky.gov for more information.
Beshear vetoes bill
Earlier on Thursday, Beshear vetoed SB 48, which would have allowed judges, police officers and court employees to remove their personal information from public documents, saying the bill could impair the operation of public agencies and infringe on the public’s right to know information.
In his veto message, Beshear said the bill was “drafted so broadly as to be unworkable in practice.” He did, however, sign SB 267, which is a bill intended to prevent the sharing of people’s personal information online to harass them, also called “doxxing.”
Beshear said SB 267 did not have the same problems as SB 48 in part because it only applies when someone is attempting to harass, intimidate, abuse or threaten someone online.
“People shouldn’t put where people’s kids go to school or where they are in the afternoon or someone’s home phone number if the whole purpose is to harass or threaten or intimidate them, which we have seen at different times,” he said.
Reporter Daniel Desrochers contributed to this story.