FRANKFORT, Ky. — After long-term care residents and healthcare workers, Kentucky plans to give COVID-19 vaccines to people age 70 and older, first responders and K-12 school personnel possibly starting in early February.
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said Monday that it is crucial to begin vaccinating people age 70 or older, who are most at-risk of complications due to COVID-19 and make up 75% of all COVID-19 deaths in Kentucky.
“This is clearly the population at greatest risk for serious medical needs, requiring hospitalization and intensive care unit care, and also the population at greatest risk for death,” Stack said.
Phase 1b also includes police officers and firefighters, and most emergency medical responders are already vaccinated in the first phase.
K-12 school personnel includes educators, bus drivers, custodians, housekeeping and other workers who might come in direct contact with students or school buildings. Off-site or administration personnel will have to wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Stack said.
Gov. Andy Beshear said that "Phase 1a" (healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staff) will end and "Phase 1b" (people over 70, first responders, K-12 personnel) could begin around Feb. 1. Both Beshear and Stack asked Kentuckians for patience as health officials work to distribute the vaccine.
Kentucky expects to receive roughly 202,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines by the end of December. More than 26,300 doses have already been administered in hospitals and long-term care centers, and 40 additional facilities will receive some amount of vaccines by the end of this week, Beshear said.
For questions on COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution, call Kentucky's 24-hour hotline at (800) 722-5725 or visit Kentucky's vaccine webpage.
COVID-19 case numbers decreasing
At his briefing Monday, Gov. Beshear announced that numbers of new COVID-19 cases appear to be falling.
“We have certainly stopped the exponential growth, this third wave, and I believe that we've not only plateaued it, but we’re starting to see cases decrease,” Beshear said.
Beshear reported 1,455 new cases and eight coronavirus-related deaths on Monday. Since March, 258,517 COVID-19 cases and 2,563 virus-related deaths have been reported in Kentucky. Holiday lab closures and an AT&T outage caused by an RV bombing in Nashville may have affected case reporting, as those labs enter new cases using the internet, Beshear said.
Beshear added that reported deaths may remain high as they lag weeks behind last fall's exponential case growth. He also recognized the "sacrifices" Kentucky businesses made to slow the spread of COVID-19 cases.
“Those sacrifices were not in vain, as the rest of the country sees continuing increases in cases, as the rest of the country sees runs out of ICU beds and hospital beds," the governor said. "At this moment, we’ve stopped that from happening in Kentucky, but we can let this success go. We’ve gotta keep it up -- otherwise we can be back very quickly to a more dangerous place."
Hospitalizations remained high Monday, with 1,552 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 411 people in intensive care units and 217 on ventilators.
Kentucky's COVID-19 test positivity rate has fallen to 7.97% on Monday. The state's fatality rate, the proportion of people who die out of people who test positive for the virus, hovers at 0.97%.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 2,407 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, and 19,579 people have recovered from the virus as of Monday. Since the pandemic began, 164 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 Monday's briefing in the player below: