FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky saw its first doses of COVID-19 vaccines given to frontline healthcare workers Monday, as Gov. Andy Beshear remained hopeful that a downward trend in new cases may continue as pandemic restrictions expire.
The first of five vaccine shipments arrived in Louisville on Monday morning, and the first Pfizer vaccine doses were administered to healthcare workers at University of Louisville Hospital.
"This means that today marks the beginning of the end of COVID-19," the governor said. "We are going to defeat this virus in 2021. It is going to happen, and today was the start of that."
Kentucky plans to distribute the first vaccines to residents and staff in long-term care facilities as well as healthcare workers. St. Elizabeth Edgewood is expected to receive its first vaccine doses on Tuesday, Beshear said.
Educators and school staff will be third in line to receive vaccines, and plans to potentially distribute doses to those individuals in February are forthcoming.
Recent COVID-19 case numbers have shown the impact from those steps, Beshear said, adding that without the three-week restrictions, state health officials believed case numbers could have doubled or tripled by mid-December.
“No question, just like in March and April and just like in July, taking these steps has made a difference at least slowing if not plateauing the growth that we were seeing," the governor said.
Schools in Kentucky will also be allowed to return to in-person learning on Jan. 4, 2021, even if that school is in a red county on Kentucky's COVID-19 incidence rate map. Every school must provide meaningful virtual options that won't "negatively impact students' GPA, class rank, ability to take advanced placement classes, or any other educational opportunity," and all schools must accommodate educators who are at high risk, Beshear said.
COVID-19 slows; NKY hospital capacity improves
Beshear announced 1,802 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, fewer cases than the two Mondays before. He also reported 17 new COVID-19 deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, 224,890 COVID-19 cases and 2,224 virus-related deaths have been reported statewide.
After falling for eight straight days, Kentucky's COVID-19 test positivity rate now sits at 8.58% on Monday. Kentucky's fatality rate, the proportion of people who die out of people who test positive for the virus, is down to 0.99% from 1.25% this time last month.
Hospitalizations remained high Sunday, with 1,712 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 434 people in intensive care units and 234 on ventilators.
Last week, Beshear said inpatient and ICU bed capacity had become a concern in Northern Kentucky and other areas around the state. By Monday, inpatient hospital bed capacity in Northern Kentucky had improved from 87% filled to 71% filled; ICU capacity also improved from 78% filled to 51% filled.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 3,304 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, with 15,311 people who have recovered from the virus on Monday. Since the pandemic began, 128 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.
Where to get tested for free in NKY
St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics offer free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger, the former Toyota HQ building off Mineola Pike.
The site is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You will be able to collect your own sample without leaving your vehicle and receive results within three to five days.
Additionally, appointment-only drive-up testing is available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria. The free testing site is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: