FRANKFORT, Ky. — All Kentuckians 16 and older are now eligible to receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, the only vaccine authorized by the FDA for use in people under 18. Additionally, Kentuckians 18 and up qualify for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Young people are being hospitalized with COVID-19 at greater rates in recent weeks, Gov. Andy Beshear said, and health officials are concerned that mutated coronavirus variants are spreading faster. Kentucky has identified 83 cases of the B117 variant statewide, including 13 cases in Kenton County, eight in Campbell County and seven in Boone County.
For this reason and because more vaccine appointments become available, Kentucky expanded vaccine eligibility to younger people.
"We know this is our ticket out of this pandemic, and the faster we get people vaccinated, the safer we are, the more that we can do, the more likely we fully and finally defeat COVID-19," the governor said Monday.
Since doses first arrived in December, Kentucky has vaccinated more than 1.4 million individuals against COVID-19, just under one third of Kentucky's total population.
After new cases of COVID-19 had declined for 11 weeks, Kentucky is now seeing new cases plateau. Kentucky's test positivity rate has continued to decline and is now 2.9%.
"Is that good or bad news? First, it's not good news if we're no longer declining. We always want to be declining... It's good news, though, that we're not escalating. But remember, other states that were declining plateaued for a period, and then increased. So we need to be vigilant. We need to be a little bit concerned," Beshear said, adding that a fourth wave can be avoided if Kentuckians follow COVID-19 precautions like masking up and social distancing.
Kentucky recorded 110 new cases Monday, lower than any of the last three weeks, as well as eight new deaths, including four audit deaths from November. Beshear said these low numbers are likely due to lab closures over the Easter weekend.
Since March 2020, 429,511 Kentuckians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 6,171 have died of the virus. Currently, 353 Kentuckians are hospitalized for COVID-19, with 97 people in intensive care units and 46 on ventilators.
The governor cautioned that Kentucky must continue to use "common sense" practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as other states see case numbers rising. Beshear has also discouraged "non-essential travel" during spring break, especially for people who are not vaccinated. The CDC announced that fully vaccinated people can safely travel inside the U.S.
NKY Health reports 497 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, and 40,030 people have recovered from the virus Monday. Since the pandemic began, 422 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus. Track the spread on Kentucky's COVID-19 incidence rate map.
Watch a replay of the briefing below: