U.S. Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell visited Baptist Health Madisonville on Wednesday to discuss Kentucky’s vaccine distribution efforts and the multiple historic and bipartisan COVID-19 relief bills passed last year that are now law.

Last year, the Senate passed five bipartisan rescue packages allocating almost $48 billion for the development of vaccines and treatments through Operation Warp Speed.

The targeted relief bill passed in December devoted $8.75 billion specifically to distribute vaccinations. In January Kentucky received almost $87 million in federal funding to help the state administer vaccine shots.

McConnell has visited more than 30 Kentucky healthcare facilities to personally thank healthcare heroes and discuss the $13 billion impact the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is having in Kentucky.

McConnell said vaccination distribution has been a huge success.

“What we have witnessed in the last 12 months is a modern medical miracle,” he said.

McConnell said Kentucky is nearing the goal line in terms of vaccinations across the commonwealth with 40% of the population now vaccinated.

“The end zone — as you have heard others describe — is 75% of Americans being vaccinated, which gives you herd immunity,” said McConnell. “Our hope is that we can get there by the summer.”

Baptist Health Systems CEO Gerard Coleman said Madisonville has administered over 20,000 vaccine doses thus far, and as a whole, Baptist Health has administered over 200,000 vaccines throughout the state.

“The vaccines have helped in our community to lessen and decrease the number of inpatient volumes we are seeing,” he said.

Hopkins County Health Department Director Denise Beach said as the vaccines get out into the community, COVID-19 cases have come down.

“We have about 40-50% of our population vaccinated, and we are starting to see success,” she said.

She said last week there were 40 positive COVID-19 cases, and so far this week there have only been eight.

“To keep this trend going, we need to keep the vaccine in arms, we need to get it into younger arms,” said Beach. “What we want to see is young people using science and making the decision to get vaccinated.”

The B.1.1.7 variant, or the U.K. variant, was reported in Hopkins County earlier this week. Beach said it is concerning to have the variant in the county while vaccine efforts are still underway because the longer the variant is in the community, the more chance it has to mutate and cause potential vaccine issues.

“We do not want (variants) circulating in the community for a long time,” she said.

McConnell urged everyone to get the vaccine.

“The facts are that these vaccines work, and we need to get this done in order to get past this pandemic.

Anyone who wishes to receive a vaccine from Baptist Health Madisonville can visit scheduleyourvaccine.com or call 270-825-7330.

The hospital has reduced the number of vaccine clinic days to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Coleman said now that more places are administering the vaccine, there are not as many people needing to come to the hospital.

“We can still meet 500 vaccinations a day,” he said.

For Hopkins County residents, the Health Department is still offering the vaccine five days a week. They are also taking the mobile vaccination van out into the county to residents who may not be able to get to another vaccine clinic.

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