FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Teasing a Monday announcement, Gov. Andy Beshear said that bars, restaurants, offices and events could soon go back to 100% capacity, up to 1,000 people, if enough Kentuckians receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
The governor said he would discuss next week the exact number of Kentuckians it would take to lift capacity restrictions and "get back to a semblance of normal."
“If we can get to that point, where while we still may be needing to wear masks, whether it’s our restaurants, our bars, our offices and the rest, we can get back to that 100% capacity,” Beshear said. “And it’s all dependent on how quickly and how many people we can vaccinate.”
Since March 1, businesses have been limited to 60% indoor capacity, and they are still required to enforce the state's mask mandate and social distancing.
All Kentuckians 16 and older are now eligible to receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, and Kentuckians 18 and up can get the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Young people are being hospitalized with COVID-19 at greater rates in recent weeks, Beshear said earlier this week, and health officials are concerned that mutated coronavirus variants are spreading faster. Kentucky has identified 111 cases of the B117 variant statewide, including 20 cases in Kenton County, 10 in Boone County and eight in Campbell County as of Thursday.
For this reason and because more vaccine appointments become available, Kentucky expanded vaccine eligibility to younger people.
"We are in an absolute race with variants to prevent any type of fourth surge and make sure we defeat this virus once and for all," Beshear said Thursday.
MORE: Where to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine in the Tri-State
Since doses first arrived in December, Kentucky has vaccinated more than 1.5 million individuals against COVID-19.
After new cases of COVID-19 had declined for 11 weeks, Kentucky is now seeing a plateau in new cases. Kentucky's test positivity rate has continued to decline and is now 2.81%.
Kentucky recorded 645 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest Thursday count in one month, as well as 16 historic deaths reported by local health departments.
Since March 2020, 431,487 Kentuckians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 6,214 have died of the virus. Currently, 377 Kentuckians are hospitalized for COVID-19, with 102 people in intensive care units and 53 on ventilators.
NKY Health reports 499 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, and 40,186 people have recovered from the virus Thursday. 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: