FRANKFORT, Ky. — As Kentucky expects to complete first COVID-19 vaccine doses for K-12 educators and staff by the end of this week, Gov. Andy Beshear said the state is looking at plans to bring more students back to classrooms starting March 1.
"We are on track to become the fastest state to vaccinate our teachers," the governor said, "and that means there is going to be an expectation and encouragement to get our classrooms open in some form based on the conditions in the community and the fiscal plan of our schools."
Based on CDC guidance, Kentucky would recommend density control, masking, proper ventilation and community mitigation in schools and for districts, Beshear said. Most Kentucky school districts are already in a hybrid learning model and taking similar precautions. The state would also recommend an all-virtual option for families who choose it.
“Because of the vaccinations, I think we’re going to have more flexibility to do more than other states while the people in the building are safe. And watching our educators get the vaccines, every one of them said, 'this is gonna help me get back in the classroom with the students,' and we’re gonna work on making that happen," Beshear said.
Details on the Kentucky Department of Education's plan to open more classrooms are expected next week.
A group of parents, including some in Boone County, have sued several public school districts Wednesday to return students to classrooms.
COVID-19 in Kentucky
Beshear reported 2,592 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, as well as 51 virus-related deaths. That report included a 29-year-old woman and 79-year-old man from Boone County, two men, ages 51 and 82, from Campbell County, two men, ages 53 and 62, from Gallatin County, and a 79-year-old woman from Kenton County.
Though deaths remain high, Beshear said the general trend in new cases has continued to decline.
"January was our worst month; Feburary is going to be tough, too," he said.
Since March, 369,519 Kentuckians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 3,863 have died of the virus. The state's test positivity rate has fallen to 8.53%.
Hospitalizations remained stable Wednesday: 1,340 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, with 368 people in intensive care units and 171 on ventilators. Kentucky's coronavirus fatality rate has risen slightly to 1.04%.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 4,154 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, and 29,748 people have recovered from the virus as of Wednesday. Since the pandemic began, 229 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.
Vaccination hub opens in Lexington
One of four regional COVID-19 vaccination hubs opened in Kentucky on Tuesday, and more vaccine sites are expected to be announced Thursday.
Kroger Health has begun operating one regional vaccine hub at the Kentucky Horse Park at 4089 Iron Works Pkwy in Lexington. The site, expected to administer about 3,000 doses this week, will vaccinate Kentuckians by appointment from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday the week of Feb. 1, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday-Saturday the week of Feb. 8.
You must have an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine scheduled at www.kroger.com/covidvaccine. To learn if you're eligible to receive a vaccine now, visit vaccine.ky.gov or call Kentucky's vaccine hotline (855) 598-2246, active 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
At this time, St. Elizabeth, HealthPoint and NKY Health are administering vaccines to those in vaccine phase 1B in Northern Kentucky.
Officials said Kentucky will run three vaccine hubs -- two in Paducah and one in Danville. Jim Gray, Kentucky's director of vaccine distribution, said he hopes there will soon be enough sites around the state that Kentuckians don't have to travel more than a county away to receive a vaccine.
Kentucky is also expecting a 5% increase in the number of COVID-19 vaccines shipped from the federal government, in addition to a 17% increase pledged last week. Officials have called for a boost in vaccines as Kentucky continues to administer them faster than the federal government supplies them.
“It’s going to take a while to reach everyone who wants to be immunized,” said Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s Public Health Commissioner.
Additionally, after people from out-of-state began signing up for vaccines in Kentucky, Beshear said Kentucky has changed COVID-19 vaccine sign-up requirements to ensure doses are only available to residents.
More than 490,000 Kentuckians have received COVID-19 vaccine doses since December.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: