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A national report just scored states' responses to COVID-19 and Kentucky ranked 41st. Here's why.

Cars wait in line at a COVID testing site in Covington, Ky., Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
Jeff Dean/AP
FR171800 AP
Cars wait in line at a COVID testing site in Covington, Ky., Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

A new nationwide COVID-19 scorecard looking at all 50 states and the District of Columbia ranks Kentucky’s overall response near the bottom.

While the results may surprise some residents who became accustomed to positive comparisons between Kentucky and neighboring states, especially early in the pandemic, the new report suggests multiple factors have since dragged the state down in the rankings.

The report card was produced by The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that, despite its name, covers healthcare across the U.S., not just in Kentucky. The group based its rankings on a number of metrics, from hospital capacity to excess mortality, measuring from the outset of the pandemic through March 2022.

While Governor Andy Beshear’s administration mounted a vigorous response to the pandemic, taking a robust approach toward safety-oriented executive orders and updating the public through frequent media briefings, those efforts have gone up against pre-existing poor health indicators, prolonged ICU pressures, and – as Dr. David Radley with the Fund notes – vaccine hesitancy.

"There could have been a strong response from the governor. People also have to be willing to get the shot, and for a number of reasons people in different parts of the country have been more or less willing to get go ahead and get vaccinated."
Dr. David Radley, Senior Scientist, Tracking Health System Performance, The Commonwealth Fund

Kentucky is one of 21 states the group says had not yet reached 70% vaccination by this March, according to the report.

Dr. Sara Collins, Vice President of Coverage and Access with the group, adds that the Bluegrass state already faced stubborn health battles that only complicated pandemic outcomes.

"People in Kentucky were vulnerable, even though they had Medicaid expansion and they have a relatively low uninsured rate, some of the access indicators are relatively low... some of the healthy lives indicators, so people with pre-existing health conditions like obesity, smoking, that sort of thing," she said during a Zoom presentation of the findings. "It just goes to show you that coverage is a necessary condition but it is not a sufficient condition" for good health outcomes.

    The top states, according to report, were:

    1. Hawaii
    2. Massachusetts
    3. Connecticut
    4. Washington
    5. Vermont
    6. Rhode Island
    7. Maryland
    8. New Hampshire
    9. Minnesota
    10. New York

    The bottom ten included:
    51. Mississippi
    50. Oklahoma
    49. West Virginia
    48. Texas
    47. Missouri
    46. Alabama
    44 (tie). Arkansas
    44 (tie). Georgia
    41 (tie). Kentucky
    41 (tie). Nevada
    41 (tie). Wyoming

    Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.