LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Kentucky's long-term care facilities hard, but only two new cases of the respiratory virus were confirmed out of 348 facilities statewide Monday, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.
"This is an amazing day," the governor said during a briefing from the state Capitol.
As of Monday, there were 79 active coronavirus cases among residents at long-term care facilities and 91 among staff members.
"I don't remember the last time that the number of new positive cases for residents was so low," Beshear said.
More than 16,900 residents at Kentucky's long-term care facilities and more than 12,600 staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 since it was first reported in the state in March 2020, according to data from the governor's office. Of the state's nearly 5,800 virus-related deaths, at least 2,277 can be attributed to its long-term care facilities.
"The vaccine has changed everything for long-term care, but this progress depends on us," Beshear said. "As these facilities reopen their doors, they need us, everybody else in Kentucky, to sign up for the vaccine."
Health officials on Monday confirmed 294 new COVID-19 cases in Kentucky alongside 11 new deaths in which the virus was a contributing factor.
Of the new cases, 108 were reported in Jefferson County, according to data from Kentucky Public Health. Only eight of Kentucky’s 120 counties are reported to be in the red zone — the most serious category for COVID-19 incidence rates. People in those counties are asked to follow stricter recommended guidelines to contain the virus. To look at a breakdown of cases in the state, click here for Kentucky's COVID-19 dashboard.
None of the 11 virus-related deaths announced Monday occurred in March, according to Beshear, who also reported 50 additional deaths as part of the state's ongoing audit.
After 10 straight weeks of declining COVID-19 cases, Kentucky's positivity rate, which measures the proportion of tests returning positive, fell from 2.97% on Sunday to 2.93% on Monday, according to Kentucky Public Health.
"This is what every other state wishes that they were seeing," Beshear said.
According to Kentucky's vaccination dashboard, 1,174,374 residents as of Monday had received at least the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Since March 16, 172,905 new residents have been vaccinated.
Vaccine eligibility was expanded Monday to anyone age 50 and older. Anyone age 16 and older in the state can begin signing up to get vaccinated on April 12. Under current guidelines, those who are 60 and older are already eligible, in addition to essential workers and those with pre-existing conditions listed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"These vaccines are getting out really fast. We want to get even better," Beshear said. "There can be a negative consequence of both too fast and too slow, so we’re trying to thread that needle, and we’ll continue to adjust to try to do just that."
Beshear also said the state is "getting better but not moving fast enough" in addressing racial disparity in its vaccine administration. According to demographic data provided by Kentucky Public Health, 50,236 Black residents, 11,874 Asian residents and less than 14,000 Hispanic residents had received at least the first dose of a vaccine as of Monday.
As the number of new cases continues to slow and more people are vaccinated, Beshear said, he hopes the CDC will release more guidance on how vaccinated people and unvaccinated people can travel or gather in groups.
"I really think we need more fleshing out of all of that and we need it sooner rather than later because the CDC is taking a more nuanced role ... there’s a vacuum created that we need filled by that guidance as well," he said.
The state is still providing free or reduced-cost transportation to and from vaccination appointments. Click here for a list of participating transportation agencies, or call Kentucky's COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 855-598-2246.
For most people, COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. The vast majority of people recover. Of Kentucky's 421,121 confirmed cases reported since March, at least 49,111 have recovered, according to Kentucky Public Health.
But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
To find a COVID-19 testing location near you, click here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.