FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky saw another record day for coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations on Tuesday.
"No way to sugar-coat it -- today is the very worst day for reporting on the spread of coronavirus, and it is the deadliest day we have had," Gov. Andy Beshear said.
Beshear announced 4,151 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, breaking the record set on Nov. 26 for the highest number of new cases reported in a single day. Tuesday's report included a record-high 461 cases in children under 18.
The governor also announced the highest number of virus-related deaths Tuesday, with 35 deaths, including a 76-year-old man from Kenton County.
Hospitalizations also hit a record high, with 1,777 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 441 people in intensive care units and 241 on ventilators on Tuesday.
So far, Kentucky has reported 183,168 total positive COVID-19 cases and 1,943 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.
Kentucky's seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate hit a record-high 9.59% on Tuesday, which Beshear said is not simply a result of increased testing, but indicates that more people who get tested see a positive result.
Beshear emphasized the importance of getting tested for coronavirus, even if a person isn't experiencing symptoms, to curb inadvertent spread of COVID-19 from asymptomatic individuals.
Kentucky has administered more than 2.8 million COVID-19 tests since the pandemic began and more than 28,468 people have reportedly recovered from coronavirus.
All but six 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, venues, gyms and home gatherings through Dec. 13 at 11:59 p.m. Middle schools and high schools will remain in remote learning until Jan. 4, but elementary schools can reopen Dec. 7 if their county is no longer in the red zone.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 3,118 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, with 11,359 people who have recovered from the virus. Since the pandemic began, 121 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.
First vaccines expected by mid-December
Beshear announced Monday that Kentucky is finalizing its plan to distribute an initial shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to two vulnerable groups around the state. The federal government is expected to deliver 38,025 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Kentucky 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.
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 draft 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.
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.
Restaurant, utility relief funds
Applications opened Monday for a $40 million relief fund for bars and restaurants that closed for indoor service.
Each eligible restaurant or bar 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.
Additionally, Beshear said the state's Utility Relief Fund still has roughly $11 million available to help Kentuckians struggling to pay utility bills.
Eligible applicants can receive a one-time grant of $500 for water or wastewater bills, or $400 for gas and electric bills.
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: