FRANKFORT, Ky. — Starting Monday, all Kentuckians 40 and older will be eligible to get their COVID shot.
As health officials are seeing some Kentuckians waiting to get a vaccine, and some waiting until they can get a Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine specifically, Gov. Andy Beshear emphasized the importance that everyone gets vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.
“Waiting for it would be a mistake," he said during his Thursday update. "It’s a mistake for you personally and it holds us back as a state in getting where we need to go."
As the state's COVID-19 numbers continue to fall, vaccinations continue to accelerate as Kentucky's COVID-19 vaccine phase 1C opened to all residents 50 and older early this week.
The governor has also pledged that every Kentuckian 16 and older will be eligible to get a vaccine starting by April 12. Beshear said it could take until the end of May to vaccinate all Kentuckians but promised that everyone who wants a vaccine can get one by May 31.
Since doses first arrived in December, Kentucky has vaccinated more than 1.2 million individuals against COVID-19, roughly a quarter of Kentucky's population.
Even as neighboring Indiana announced its mask mandate will expire April 6, Beshear said he plans to renew Kentucky’s mask mandate until it is safe to lift it.
“I do see a future where we won’t have a mask mandate. As soon as it’s safe, I look forward to lifting it. We are not gonna be wearing these forever,” Beshear said.
“Let’s not quit early -- it is so close, and let’s not stop protecting each other until we get to the point where it’s safe."
COVID-19 trends down in Kentucky
For 10 consecutive weeks, Kentucky has seen new cases of COVID-19 in decline. The state's test positivity rate has also fallen in recent weeks to 2.92%.
Kentucky reported 726 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, the lowest Thursday count in at least a month. Health departments statewide reported 19 new deaths from COVID-19, including a 61-year-old from Gallatin County and a 60-year-old from Kenton County this month.
Since last March, 423,414 Kentuckians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 5,970 have died of the virus. Currently, 403 Kentuckians are hospitalized for COVID-19, with 106 people in intensive care units and 49 on ventilators.
Meanwhile, health officials are also battling a new COVID-19 variant found in 41 people at an Eastern Kentucky nursing home, but the governor said there is no concern that the variant will spread outside that facility.
Across the state, Beshear reported no new COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities Thursday, which he attributes to the high number of residents and staff getting vaccinated.
"I can't remember the last day when our update was zero here," he said.
NKY Health reports 540 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, and 39,634 people have recovered from the virus Thursday. Since the pandemic began, 354 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: