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Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack

Renee Shaw talks with Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, about the increase in COVID-19 cases, vaccines, variants and if a change in mitigation recommendations is on the horizon.
S16 E34 Length 27:41 Premiere: 7.11.21

Updating Kentuckians on Rising COVID-19 Cases, New Variants, and the Need to Get Vaccinated

The recent Fourth of July holiday seemed like old times with family gatherings, fireworks, and vacations at the lake or beach. But after more than a year and a half of living under COVID-19 restrictions, state officials are urging Kentuckians to not let their guards down.

“Though the crisis may have passed in the moment,” says Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack, “we are still in the middle of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, so people still need to be cautious.”

The proof is in the numbers. Stack says after eight straight weeks of declining cases in Kentucky and positivity rates that had dipped below 2 percent, key indicators are again on the uptick. He says in the first week of July new cases increased by 90 over the week before. The positivity rate is also up, now back over 3 percent.

Stack says he expected some increase with the end of the state’s mask mandate and capacity limits last month. But those changes coincided with the spread of the Delta variant of COVID. Fortunately for now, Stack says, the vaccines are helping to protect people and the health care system from that more transmissible mutation.

“Hopefully even as the cases increase, the burden on the hospitals and the health care system will not rise in the same rate that it did last year,” he says. “We definitely want to make sure that the health system has capacity to be able to care for everyone in their time in need.”

While masking requirements remain in place for public transit, hospitals, and nursing homes, Stack doesn’t foresee a return to broader mandates at this time.

Vaccine Benefits Outweigh the Risks

As effective as the vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer have been, they only work when people take them. So far only half of the state’s total population is fully vaccinated. Among adult Kentuckians, 61 percent are vaccinated.

Vaccination rates are the highest in the so-called golden triangle between Louisville, Lexington, and northern Kentucky, where the numbers range from 55 to 65 percent. But other counties, including Ballard, Christian, and Spencer have rates in the low 20s. Health officials say the majority of new cases are among people who have not been vaccinated.

“It’s the unvaccinated who are going to get hit the hardest and get hurt the most,” says Stack.

The commissioner says the Donald Trump Administration deserves credit in facilitating vaccine development by removing financial risks for pharmaceutical companies and accelerating the approval processes. But political rhetoric surrounding the rollout of the vaccines has left many Americans in more rural and more conservative areas reluctant to take them

“It is their choice, and when we make those choices there will be consequences for it,” Stack says. “For most people, they’ll do okay, but not everybody.”

A number of factors may cause vaccine hesitancy. Some people are suspicious of the speed with which the medicines were approved for use under federal emergency authorization. Stack says that still required three phases of study among large test groups to determine the vaccines’ safety and efficacy.

Stack says federal regulators require a year’s worth of data or more to grant a final approval. Since testing on the vaccines began last summer, Stack says full licensure shouldn’t be far off.

“I think we’re going to see this fall the regular approvals now come for these vaccines because we’ve immunized hundreds of millions of people the world around with incredibly high success,” he says.

Other people have expressed fears that the vaccines could impact fertility or have other side effects. Stack says the concerns about fertility are based on misinformation and that current guidance says pregnant women should be vaccinated.

Public health officials are exploring potential links between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to a rare heart inflammatory condition. The federal Food and Drug Administration also says those who receive the J&J vaccine may be at increased risk for a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Stack says those side effects have been noted in just a few of the millions of people who have been vaccinated. He says no treatment is without risk, and the dangers posed by getting COVID still outweigh the risk of any potential side effects from the medicine. If you have concerns, Stack recommends discussing them with your doctor.

“Life is full of risks and we have to assess them in relative terms and pick the path that’s safest,” the commissioner says. “Ask the person you know, the person you trust… what they would recommend and why, and make sure your questions are addressed.”

Another common rationale for eschewing the vaccines is that the person contracted and recovered from COVID. While the body does develop some natural immunity when fighting off a virus, Stack says the protection offered by the vaccines is far superior – perhaps as much as 10 times stronger. So even if a person had COVID, Stack still encourages them to get vaccinated as soon as they have returned to your normal baseline of health.

Herd Immunity Still Far Off

State officials continue to reach out to communities where vaccination rates are lagging. Those efforts include million-dollar prizes for adult Kentuckians and college scholarships for youth age 12 to 17. Stacks says he thinks the prize drawings have helped elevate vaccination rates some, and he hopes the winners can help inspire others among the vaccine hesitant to get the shot.

Ideally, another million Kentuckians need to get vaccinated, says Stack, which would increase the total number of vaccinated residents to about 3.2 million. The commissioner says that combined with the number of people who have had COVID would put the state close to herd immunity.

But given that less than 5 percent of the world’s population is vaccinated, the commissioner says COVID will remain a public health issue for the foreseeable future.

“As long as the virus has a large number of humans to spread through, it’s going to mutate,” Stack says. “As long as the vaccines are effective against whatever variants are out there, the answer is simple: Get vaccinated.”

For those who still refuse to get vaccinated, Stack encourages them to wear a mask and socially distance. He also says individuals who are vaccinated but have compromised immune systems due to cancer treatment, rheumatoid arthritis, or other conditions should continue to mask in public as a precautionary measure.

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Jay Williams - S10 E33

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams is a former mayor of Youngstown, Ohio. From the recent SOAR summit in Pikeville, he talks about how Youngstown recovered from the decline of the steel industry and how those lessons can apply to Eastern Kentucky areas distressed by the sharp downturn in coal jobs.

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Susan Guess and her daughter, Morgan, began the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation nearly four years ago after Morgan experienced bullying. They have raised $50,000 to bring a variety of anti-bullying programs to the region. Susan Guess was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear in 2014 to serve on the Kentucky Bully Prevention Task Force, which will make recommendations to the governor in fall 2015.

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Cathy Zion - Zion Publications LLC - S10 E38

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Gigi Butler - Gigi's Cupcakes - S10 E39

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Cathe Dykstra - Family Scholar House - S10 E41

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Connections

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Connections

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Andre Taylor has a distinguished 35-year career, building and advising businesses. He's the author of You Can Still Win! and a half-dozen other books, a frequent guest expert on ABC News, and an international authority on winning and leadership. Mr. Taylor was a speaker at the 13th Annual Lexington Bluegrass Area Minority Business Expo.

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JoAnne Wheeler Bland - S10 E44

Renee talks with transgender activist JoAnne Wheeler Bland, who in her sixties transitioned from male to female. A practicing attorney for more than 40 years, she is a former Special Justice on the Kentucky Supreme Court, former Vice-President of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, current member of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education's Committee on Equal Opportunity (the Diversity Committee), and guest speaker at Women's and Gender Studies programs at Kentucky universities.

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Faith Politics - S10 E45

Renee and her guests talk about the role of religion in politics and public policy decision-making. Guests: Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, pastor of New Union Christian Church, and Rev. D. Anthony Everett, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church.

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Kinship Care - S10 E46

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Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk - S11 E2

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Connections

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Renee's guest is Dr. Gerald Smith, an author and history professor at the University of Kentucky, and co-editor of The Kentucky African-American Encyclopedia: Life and Culture in the Commonwealth. The reference book contains entries on the individuals, events, places, organizations, movements, and institutions that helped shape the state's history and cultural diversity.

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Childhood Cancer - S11 E4

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Dorothy Butler Gilliam - S11 E7

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  • Friday October 22, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections - S17 E8

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Allison Joseph - S11 E8

Allison Joseph is the author of six poetry books. She teaches at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, where she helped found {Crab Orchard Review}, a literary journal, and the Young Writers Workshop, a co-ed residential summer program for teen writers.

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Ari Berman - S11 E9

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  • Tuesday October 26, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees - S10 E16

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15K Degrees Initiative - S10 E13

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Sister Helen Prejean - S10 E12

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Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court - S10 E11

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Charlene Buckles and Dan Wu - S17 E2

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  • Sunday September 12, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
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Cynthia Knapek - Leadership Louisville Center

  • Sunday September 12, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 12, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 11:00 am CT on KET

Bill Farmer - S10 E8

  • Friday September 10, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 10, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Diane Follingstad - UK Women's Circle Endowment Chair - S10 E6

  • Thursday September 9, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 9, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Kevin Chapman - S10 E5

  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 2:20 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 1:20 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 8, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Soreyda Benedit Begley and Chris Begley - S10 E3

  • Tuesday September 7, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 7, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 7, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 7, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Chris Rabb - S10 E1

  • Friday September 3, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 3, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Tanya Torp and Holly Houston - S9 E46

  • Thursday September 2, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 2, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 2, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 2, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Frontier Nursing University - S9 E45

  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

SWAG - Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence - S9 E44

  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Marta Miranda - S9 E43

  • Monday August 30, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday August 30, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Sarah Taylor Vanover - Early Childhood Education

  • Sunday September 5, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 5, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday September 4, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday September 4, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 11:00 am CT on KET

The Rise of Anti-Asian Violence

  • Sunday August 29, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday August 29, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday August 28, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday August 28, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET

Judi Jennings - S9 E42

  • Friday August 27, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday August 27, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Dr. Robert Hilgers - S9 E41

  • Thursday August 26, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday August 26, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Wil James - S9 E40

  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

African Americans and Mental Health - S9 E39

  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY
Top

Season 16 Episodes

Filmmaker Elizabeth Helm-Frazier

S16 E37 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 8.1.21

Early Childhood Development Initiatives in Louisville

S16 E36 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 7.25.21

Kathy Werking and Jim Embry

S16 E35 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 7.17.21

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack

S16 E34 Length 27:41 Premiere Date 7.11.21

Boone Co. Judge Executive Gary Moore

S16 E33 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 6.26.21

The Demands and Rewards of Fatherhood

S16 E32 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 6.20.21

Psychologist Julie Cerel

S16 E31 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 6.13.21

Restaurateur and Chef Ouita Michel

S16 E30 Length 27:56 Premiere Date 6.6.21

Sarah Taylor Vanover - Early Childhood Education

S16 E29 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 5.16.21

A Conversation with U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell

S16 E28 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 5.9.21

Cynthia Knapek of Louisville Leadership Center

S16 E27 Length 27:35 Premiere Date 5.1.21

Vaccine Equity and Hesitancy

S16 E26 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 4.24.21

State Treasurer Allison Ball and Sharon Price

S16 E25 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 4.18.21

Chef and Activist Dan Wu

S16 E24 Length 27:52 Premiere Date 4.11.21

EKU Criminal Justice Professor Pete Kraska

S16 E23 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 4.3.21

The Rise of Anti-Asian Violence

S16 E22 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 3.28.21

Authors Prisha Hedau, Carly Muetterties and Maddie Shepard

S16 E21 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 3.21.21

Charles Booker

S16 E20 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 3.14.21

Mental Health and COVID-19

S16 E19 Length 28:39 Premiere Date 2.14.21

Community Activist Christopher 2X

S16 E18 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 2.7.21

Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Keith Jackson

S16 E17 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 1.31.21

A Mission to End Institutional Racism in Kentucky

S16 E16 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 1.24.21

Celebrating the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County

S16 E15 Length 28:33 Premiere Date 1.17.21

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman

S16 E14 Length 27:06 Premiere Date 1.10.21

Caroline Randall Williams

S16 E13 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 12.20.20

Amy Luttrell and Adria Johnson

S16 E12 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 12.13.20

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass

S16 E11 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 11.22.20

Louisville Metro Police Interim Chief Yvette Gentry

S16 E10 Length 28:11 Premiere Date 11.15.20

Jecorey Arthur and Quintez Brown

S16 E9 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 11.8.20

Terrance Sullivan

S16 E8 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 11.1.20

2020 Election Preview with Colmon Elridge and Tres Watson

S16 E7 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10.25.20

Beth Howard and Michael Harrington; Devine Carama

S16 E6 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 10.18.20

Nana Ama Aya Bullock and Muriel Harris

S16 E5 Length 28:26 Premiere Date 10.11.20

Betsy Johnson, Saundra Ardrey

S16 E4 Length 28:41 Premiere Date 10.4.20

Fabian Alvarez, Leyda Becker and Mercedes Harn

S16 E3 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 9.27.20

Devine Carama; Marjorie Guyon and Barry Darnell Burton

S16 E2 Length 28:46 Premiere Date 9.20.20

Marsha Weinstein

S16 E1 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 9.11.20

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