FRANKFORT, Ky. — After holiday gatherings led to another surge in Kentucky COVID-19 cases, state health leaders questioned if that surge would subside as Kentuckians went back to isolating.
“The answer appears to be yes, as we now have two straight weeks of decline,” Gov. Andy Beshear said, adding that the trend appears to be continuing.
On Monday, the governor reported 1,268 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest daily number of cases in the last four weeks. Kentucky also recorded 39 virus-related deaths. Since March, 347,836 Kentuckians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 3,460 have died of the virus.
The state's test positivity rate, which has also declined in recent days, fell to 9.93% Monday.
Hospitalizations fell again Monday, with 1,539 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 374 people in intensive care units and 203 on ventilators. Across the state, Kentucky hospitals and intensive care unit capacity appears to be stable, Beshear said. Kentucky's coronavirus fatality rate now sits at 0.98%; according to Johns Hopkins, the U.S. has a COVID-19 mortality rate of 1.7%.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 4,435 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, and 27,239 people have recovered from the virus as of Thursday. Since the pandemic began, 203 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.
Kentucky has now administered 88% of the first COVID-19 vaccine doses it has received, and first doses have been administered to the residents and staff at all Kentucky assisted living facilities.
Beshear again called on the federal government last week to double the state's weekly allotment of vaccines. As Kentucky hopes to begin vaccine phase 1C next month, in which there are an estimated 1 million eligible vaccine recipients, the state is still only slated to receive about 57,000 doses per week.
"I'm excited about the fact that we can already vaccinate significantly more people -- we're doing it right now -- than we're getting doses," he said. "But our ability to provide Kentuckians with vaccinations is extremely limited due to insufficient supply that we are getting from the federal government."
More than 308,000 Kentuckians have received COVID-19 vaccine doses since December.
Kentucky expects to release more details Thursday on the rollout for vaccine phase 1C, including locations and sign-up information for Kroger's upcoming drive-thru vaccine sites.
$38M more in utility relief coming
To help families struggling to pay their utility bills due to the pandemic's financial impact, the governor announced $38 million in additional assistance Monday.
Local governments can request up to $200,000 through the federal Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Response program. This would allow Kentuckians in communities that request the funds to receive $250 per month for six months toward utilities, including electric, water, sewer, gas and heating and cooling bills.
Those who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and received a utility disconnection notice after Jan. 21, 2020 will qualify for the relief program.
Governments can apply for a piece of this funding now through a form on Kentucky’s Department for Local Government website.
Roughly $15 million in funds set aside for utility bill relief last fall helped 63,000 Kentuckians by December, Beshear said. With this latest round of funding, the state hopes to help up to 130,000 people with their bills.
A fourth round of utility and rent relief is forthcoming, about $297 million, through the latest federal COVID-19 relief package, the governor said.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: