LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's COVID-19 positivity rate dropped below 10% on Monday for the first time in 2021, but with five days left in January, the commonwealth has set a new record for most virus-related deaths reported in a single month.
Health officials on Monday reported 39 more deaths in which COVID-19 was a contributing factor alongside 1,268 new cases, Gov. Andy Beshear said during a briefing from the state Capitol.
Monday's single-day death toll brings Kentucky to a single-month record 798 deaths reported in January, according to data from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. That's 44 more deaths than the previous record, 754, reported in December.
Among the victims Monday were two women, ages 78 and 82, from Jefferson County, the governor said. According to data from Kentucky Public Health, more than half of the 3,460 Kentuckians who have died from the coronavirus were age 70 or older. Beshear on Monday said that 2,130 of the state's total deaths are attributed to the state's long-term care facilities.
Monday's caseload was the lowest in four weeks, according to Beshear, who also said Kentucky saw its second straight weekly decline in cases. However, he said more than 1,200 new cases in a single day is still too many.
"I remember when that number would have been staggering," he said. "But compared to dates that we have had, ... it's a good sign."
Kentucky's positivity rate, which measures the proportion of coronavirus tests returning positive, fell for a seventh consecutive day from 10.24% on Sunday to 9.93% on Monday — the lowest it has been in 2021.
Health care professionals as of Monday had administered 308,812 doses of coronavirus vaccine statewide, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health's vaccination dashboard.
Beshear said he believes that all residents and staff at the commonwealth's long-term care facilities have received their first doses of the two-shot immunization. If any facilities have not received its allocation of initial doses, the governor said to contact his administration.
On Thursday, Beshear will unveil the locations of the state's first regional mass vaccination centers in partnership with Kroger. Those centers are expected to be online Feb. 1 and will be able to provide doses to anyone in Phase 1C or above in the state's vaccination plan. That includes anyone age 60 or older, anyone age 16 or older with high-risk preexisting health conditions and all essential workers as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As more Kentuckians become eligible for vaccination, however, Beshear said the state's capacity will be pushed to its limits due to "insufficient supply that we are getting from the federal government."
"We believe that we could vaccinate 250,000 Kentuckians a week right now, and we're still building up our capabilities," the governor said. "But if we're only getting 56,000 new doses, it is an extreme limitation that's holding us from getting our people vaccinated as quickly as we want."
"... Remember, when we get to 1C, we're gonna have over 1 million people who are eligible," he added. "We're getting 56,000 new doses a week. You can do the math in that it's gonna be a real challenge, and a lot of people are going to be frustrated about either not getting an appointment or how far it's out in the future. It's just basic supply and demand."
Asked if the state's vaccine supply issues could lead to the shutdown of the regional vaccination centers shortly after they are opened, Beshear said the state will limit the amount of appointments scheduled at those sites and that waiting lists could be "more than 10,000 (people) deep."
As of Monday, 1,539 Kentuckians were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to Kentucky Public Health, while 374 were being treated for the virus in intensive care units. More than 200 patients were on ventilators.
For most people, COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. The vast majority of people recover. Of Kentucky's 347,836 confirmed cases reported since March, at least 41,760 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.
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