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Kentucky reports highest day of COVID-19 deaths; White House says new cases stabilizing

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Posted at 3:59 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 20:07:46-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear reported 54 new COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, the most deaths seen in one day since the pandemic began. That report included an 83-year-old woman from Carroll County, a 66-year-old man from Kenton County and two men, ages 83 and 87, from Mason County.

“I hope we don’t have another day where we have 54 deaths,” the governor said. “This is going to be hard, because this is 54 families that need our help and our compassion and our green lights, which is the color of compassion and renewal.”

Beshear also announced 3,349 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, which is down from last Thursday. Since March, 234,021 COVID-19 cases and 2,316 virus-related deaths have been reported statewide.

Hospitalizations increased on Thursday, with 1,817 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 431 people in intensive care units and 254 on ventilators.

Kentucky's COVID-19 test positivity rate dipped again to 8.45% on Thursday. 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 1.22% this time last month.

Beshear shared recommendations from the latest White House COVID-19 task force report for Kentucky on Thursday. Among them: people over age 65 should not enter indoor public spaces where people are not masked, and people under 40 should assume they have already been infected with COVID-19 if they gathered with people outside of their household. They most likely won't have coronavirus symptoms, but isolating will protect others.

The White House also recommends that Kentuckians limit holiday gatherings to people in their household. Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack also recommended against traveling for Christmas.

"Let's make sure that we do the right thing over this holiday to protect those we love and to protect those around us," Beshear said.

According to the White House report, Kentucky has seen "stability" or plateau in new coronavirus cases and a declining test positivity rate, which Beshear credits to recent pandemic restrictions that "blunted" an expected spike in cases after Thanksgiving. The state is also managing a "critical staffing shortage" in hospitals.

“That means we are doing better as the rest of the nation is doing worse,” Beshear said.

Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 2,910 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, and 16,369 people have recovered from the virus as of Thursday. Since the pandemic began, 134 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.

First vaccines have arrived at KY hospitals

Beshear announced Wednesday that all 11 health facilities identified to receive initial shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have confirmed their receipt.

By the end of December, Kentucky expects to receive roughly 175,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines. About 1,400 doses have been administered this week, and the governor said he has received no reports yet of adverse side effects.

Kentucky plans to distribute the first vaccines to residents and staff in long-term care facilities as well as healthcare workers. 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.

Following reports that five-dose vaccine vials had been overfilled, yielding a full sixth dose in some cases, Health Commissioner Stack has advised hospitals to use those “extra” doses.

For questions on COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution, call Kentucky's 24-hour hotline at (800) 722-5725.

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.

Schedule an appointment at those sites online at www.stelizabeth.com/covid-testing. To find all coronavirus testing locations near you, click here.

Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: