FRANKFORT, Ky. — At his final COVID-19 briefing of 2020, Gov. Andy Beshear again asked Kentuckians to keep their New Year's celebrations small, especially as the state is seeing the number of new coronavirus cases decreasing.
“2021 is the year we’re going to beat COVID-19, but to do that, I need everybody -- everybody -- to keep their New Year’s Eve gathering small,” he said Tuesday.
Beshear announced that he has renewed Kentucky’s mask mandate for another 30 days effective Jan. 2, and he also extended Kentucky’s eviction moratorium through Jan. 31.
"I need people to try, for them to do their duty. I need business owners to enforce this (mask mandate). Restaurants and bars, part of being able to operate in a pandemic that spreads when people take their masks off. Is to make people wear them every moment they're not eating or drinking," Beshear said.
A third order allowing pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of up to a 30-day supply of non-scheduled medications was also extended.
The governor reported 2,990 new cases, down from last week, and 31 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, including an 88-year-old woman from Boone County. Beshear said the higher number of deaths lag behind the case numbers from exponential case growth seen in late fall.
Since March, 261,492 COVID-19 cases and 2,594 virus-related deaths have been reported in Kentucky.
Hospitalizations increased Tuesday, with 1,635 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 380 people in intensive care units and 211 on ventilators.
Kentucky's COVID-19 test positivity rate rose slightly to 8.41% on Tuesday. The state's fatality rate, the proportion of people who die out of people who test positive for the virus, hovers at 0.99%.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 2,317 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, and 19,915 people have recovered from the virus as of Tuesday. Since the pandemic began, 165 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.
Federal relief coming to KY
The latest federal COVID-19 relief bill includes $600 payments to individuals, equating to roughly $2.2 billion for Kentuckians. If Congress's latest effort to secure $2,000 payments for individuals is approved, Beshear said that could send about $5 billion more to Kentucky residents.
Beshear said nearly $297 million is expected for eviction relief and utility relief. Eligible unemployed Kentuckians can expect an additional $300 per week assistance for 11 weeks, about $489 million total.
The relief bill also includes education, transportation, and family and senior program funding. There is no timeline yet for distributing payments to individuals or the state receiving these funds.
"We hope while there will be a lot of use this year, that we'll see significant dollars to remediation," Beshear said. "Catching kids up that have fallen behind during the pandemic."
Who gets the COVID-19 vaccine next?
After long-term care residents and healthcare workers, Kentucky plans to give COVID-19 vaccines to people age 70 and older, first responders and K-12 school personnel possibly starting in early February.
"Phase 1a" (healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staff) will end and "Phase 1b" (people over 70, first responders, K-12 personnel) could begin around Feb. 1, Beshear said.
Phase 1b also includes police officers and firefighters, while most emergency medical responders will already be vaccinated in the first phase. K-12 school personnel includes those who come in contact with students or school buildings. Off-site or administration personnel will have to wait to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Kentucky expects to receive roughly 202,000 doses of Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines by the end of December, with just under 54,000 expected to arrive the first week of January. Nearly 29,000 doses have already been administered in hospitals and long-term care centers, and 40 more facilities will receive some amount of vaccines by the end of this week.
For questions on COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution, call Kentucky's 24-hour hotline at (800) 722-5725 or visit Kentucky's vaccine webpage.
Where to get tested for free in NKY
St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics offer free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger, the former Toyota HQ building off Mineola Pike.
The site is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You will be able to collect your own sample without leaving your vehicle and receive results within three to five days.
Additionally, appointment-only drive-up testing is available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria. The free testing site is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Schedule an appointment at those sites online at www.stelizabeth.com/covid-testing. To find all coronavirus testing locations near you, click here.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: