FRANKFORT, Ky. — As Christmas and New Year’s approach, Gov. Andy Beshear urged Kentuckians to limit their gatherings to eight people from two households in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 until vaccines can be disseminated.
“With the rest of the country on fire, with hosptializations escalating in most every other state, in Kentucky we are seeing a stabilization that is protecting the lives of our people, and we want to make sure that we continue to plateau or even decrease cases as we move toward this vaccine," the governor said at his regular Tuesday briefing.
Several Kentucky veteran centers and more long-term care facilities have begun administering Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, Beshear announced Tuesday. The governor has emphasized the importance of vaccinating residents and staff in long-term care facilities first, as resident deaths due to COVID-19 make up roughly 66% of statewide deaths.
By Wednesday of this week, every Kentucky acute-care hospital will have at least some vaccines to give to its healthcare staff.
"We're dealing a massive blow to this pandemic by prioritizing long-term care, we are giving a second wind to our frontline healthcare workers," Beshear said.
Kentucky now expects to receive roughly 202,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines in December into January. More than 8,800 doses have already been administered, and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said Kentucky is seeing "very good tolerance for the vaccines," aside from some common side effects like soreness at the vaccine location, body aches and low-grade fever.
Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second "booster" dose taken in the weeks after the initial dose, and the federal government plans to ship these second doses shortly after the initial vaccines are received, Beshear said.
After long-term care residents and healthcare workers, Kentucky plans to vaccinate educators and school staff. Plans to potentially distribute doses to those individuals in February are still forthcoming.
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.
Federal COVID-19 relief on the way
Beshear, who for months has demanded more federal pandemic assistance, said the latest COVID-19 relief package will include much-needed funds for testing, contact tracing and vaccine distribution.
The federal relief bill also includes $600 payments to individuals, equating to roughly $2 billion sent to Kentuckians. Beshear expects $400 million will stimulate Kentucky’s economy via the added $300 in jobless benefit payments.
Beshear said up to $300 million is expected for eviction relief, funds which can also be used toward utility relief.
The relief bill is not expected to have money for state and local government aid.
“There’s not direct budgetary relief, from everything I’ve seen, this is a package that’s going to help us, and help us significantly, and for it I’m grateful,” Beshear said, adding he believes Kentucky’s budget will remain in “good shape.”
Kentucky COVID-19 numbers
Beshear announced 3,057 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 virus-related deaths on Tuesday. Since March, 247,344 COVID-19 cases and 2,440 virus-related deaths have been reported statewide.
While deaths have trended up, lagging behind cases about two weeks, cases continue to plateau, Beshear said. Current COVID-19 case numbers are tracking slightly under last week's total.
Hospitalizations increased slightly on Tuesday, with 1,631 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 419 people in intensive care units and 223 on ventilators.
Kentucky's COVID-19 test positivity rate dipped to 8.48% on Tuesday. 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 1.13% this time last month.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 2,811 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, and 18,164 people have recovered from the virus as of Tuesday. Since the pandemic began, 161 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: