FRANKFORT, Ky. — For the second straight day, Kentucky has seen a record-high number of coronavirus deaths. Gov. Andy Beshear reported 37 virus-related deaths Wednesday, breaking the previous record set Tuesday (35). Wednesday's report included an 85-year-old man and two women, ages 81 and 82, from Kenton County, as well as an 80-year-old woman and two men, ages 49 and 94, from Boone County and an 82-year-old man from Campbell County.
The governor also announced 3,601 new COVID-19 cases, the sixth-highest day for new cases, including 379 cases in people under 18.
Kentucky's seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate again hit a record-high 9.62% on Wednesday, which Beshear said is not simply a result of increased testing, but indicates that more people who get tested are seeing a positive result. As cases grow, Kentucky's current fatality rate, the proportion of people who die out of people who test positive for the virus, is 1.06%, down from 1.37% on Nov. 1.
Hospitalizations dipped slightly, with 1,768 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 427 people in intensive care units and 234 on ventilators on Wednesday. Beshear expressed concern again that coronavirus hospitalizations could overwhelm Kentucky hospitals, leaving fewer doctors, nurses and medical staff to treat patients.
So far, Kentucky has reported 186,765 total positive COVID-19 cases and 1,980 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began. Beshear said the state and the White House COVID-19 task force expect to see higher coronavirus case numbers coming this week as a result of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
With cold weather and holiday gatherings ahead, and with promising news for COVID-19 vaccines, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack urged Kentuckians to follow the state’s mask mandate and other pandemic restrictions.
“It requires every Kentuckian to take this seriously and do what needs to be done,” Stack said.
Stack said with higher compliance for these mandates, as well as common-sense practices like staying home when you’re sick and limiting contact with others, Kentucky could see growth in coronavirus cases and deaths slowed within weeks.
More COVID-19 numbers
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, which indicates "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 Monday, Dec. 7 if their county is no longer in the red zone.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 3,133 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, with 11,707 people who have recovered from the virus on Wednesday. Since the pandemic began, 124 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.
Restaurant, utility relief funds
Applications are now open for Kentucky's $40 million relief fund for bars and restaurants closed for indoor service.
Each eligible restaurant or bar could receive a grant up to $10,000, with a maximum of $20,000 available to local chains with more than one location. So far, more than 2,200 applications have been submitted for a $19 million share of the fund. Applications will be processed in the order in which they are received.
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.
First vaccines expected in weeks
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 Dec. 15.
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.
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: