FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky is finalizing its plan to distribute a first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to two vulnerable groups around the state.
Gov. Andy Beshear said the federal government is expected to deliver 38,025 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Kentucky in an initial shipment, with officials hoping to receive them as early as mid-December. Residents and staff in long-term care facilities will be the first to receive a portion of these free vaccines.
There are an estimated 50,300 people total in that group, and 26,000 will be vaccinated from the first shipment and will get the second "booster" dose three weeks later, Beshear said. Walgreens and CVS have contracted with the federal government to administer the vaccine.
“If we can get through and vaccinate our residents and our staff, we could cut off 66% of the deaths that we are seeing right now,” the governor said at his Monday coronavirus briefing.
The second group to receive 12,000 free COVID-19 vaccines in the first shipment will be frontline healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients at Kentucky medical centers. This vaccine will be administered by the state through those medical centers, and the state will finalize the list of medical centers receiving vaccines by Friday.
An additional 76,700 doses are projected in a first shipment of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, estimated to ship in late December.
Recent studies from both Pfizer and Moderna have shown their vaccines to be 95% and 94.5% effective against COVID-19, respectively. Beshear said Kentucky will submit its distribution plan to the federal government this week.
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack lauded the "wonderful news" of effective vaccines, but said they still have a ways to go before federal approval. He added that the estimated number of doses in the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines is roughly a third of what Kentucky initially hoped the federal government would send.
"This is going to compel more difficult choices, and all the hospitals have been asked to determine tiering for their healthcare professionals, so that those at most risk of exposure to the disease and patients with the disease would be in a 'tier one' category," Stack said, adding that there are about 200,000 healthcare professionals across the state.
With cold weather, increased travel and upcoming holiday gatherings, plus a public "fatigued" by the virus and related restrictions, Stack warned Kentucky is "not out of the woods yet." He again implored Kentuckians to continue following the state's mask mandate and other pandemic restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
To test Kentucky's readiness to deliver vaccines, the state is participating in an exercise with the CDC and Pfizer this week to deliver a mock shipment in an empty thermal container to University of Kentucky Medical Center. Beshear said he hopes a vaccine will be widely available to the public later next year.
“It’s not going to be everywhere, and it’s not going to be available to the general public until we get the healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staffers,” Beshear said, adding that vaccinating teachers will also be a "big priority."
COVID-19 in Kentucky
Beshear announced 2,124 new COVID-19 cases Monday, the second-highest Monday on record, as well as 12 virus-related deaths. Kentucky has reported 179,041 total positive COVID-19 cases and 1,908 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began.
Beshear said the state expects to see higher coronavirus case numbers coming this week as a result of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Hospitalizations remained high over the weekend, with 1,741 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 421 people in intensive care units and 229 on ventilators on Monday.
Kentucky has administered more than 2.7 million COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began and more than 28,281 people have reportedly recovered from coronavirus. Kentucky's seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate rose again to 9.42% on Monday.
All but five Kentucky counties have moved into the "red" on the state's COVID-19 incidence rate map, indicating "critical" spread in those areas of 25 or more cases per 100,000 people. Currently, sweeping pandemic restrictions are in effect for restaurants and bars, schools, venues, gyms and home gatherings through Dec. 13.
Applications opened Monday for a $40 million relief fund for bars and restaurants that closed for indoor service. Each eligible restaurant could receive up to $10,000, with a maximum $20,000 available to local chains with more than one location. So far, 2,200 applications have already been submitted for a $19 million share of the fund. Applications will be processed in the order in which they are received.
"I know it doesn't come nearly close to making those establishments whole, but if you qualify, make sure you take advantage of this program. The faster you apply, the faster we can get you that help," Beshear said.
To apply for the Kentucky Food and Beverage Relief Fund, click here.
NKY Health reported 3,170 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, with 10,966 people who have recovered from the virus. Since the pandemic began, 124 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.
Where to get tested for free in NKY
In Northern Kentucky, 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: