Bars get an extra hour starting Friday, COVID numbers continue down
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Starting Friday, bars and restaurants in the state can stay open another hour.
And next week, people 50 and older can start getting vaccines as the categories slowly expand. And by April 12, everyone 16 and older in the state should be able to get the vaccine as the state races toward its goal of having everyone vaccinated by the end of May.
And finally, the state hopes to be able to open up guidance to communities for festivals and other gatherings, possibly within two weeks.
The announcements were all part of good or positive news, Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday during his daily briefing as the state’s COVID case numbers continued to improve.
The only controversial information came when the governor announced the first round of numbers from audits of deaths in the state during a four month period late last year and early in 2020. The numbers included what are likely to be 604 more deaths attributed to COVID-related causes.
Although the governor said the numbers are part of the state’s transparency efforts, some questioned why now and how the deaths could have been missed previously.
Ohio, Indiana and a few other states have done similar audits with similar results and other states are likely to in coming weeks and months as the nation continues to try to assess the complete impact of the virus.
But the continued easing of business restrictions and possibility of more vaccine appointments were a positive note, even if some of the state’s more than 500 vaccination locations already are reporting open appointments as vaccine doses get dished out across the state.
“It’s a little more relief given some of the numbers…but let’s not mess this up,” Beshear said, noting bars and restaurants still must require and wear masks, maintain the 60 percent capacity and keep customers socially distanced.
Under the eased rules, the businesses can serve until midnight and must be closed by 1 a.m. That’s an hour later for each.
When asked about the possibility of eased regulations on everything from softball leagues to festivals, the governor said he hoped those rules were close.
Among other things, the state has been waiting for some guidance from the CDC. In addition, state health leaders want to make sure the COVID case numbers continue to fall, no outbreaks occur, especially outbreaks involving the new variants, and the number of people vaccinated, which now stands at 1,082,000, continues to grow rapidly.
“If we can get just a couple of more weeks,” Beshear said of how soon more rules might be eased or lifted.
Beshear announced all Kentuckian 50 and older can sign up for COVID-19 vaccination appointments on or after March 22.
He said all Kentuckians ages 16 and older will be able to sign up for appointments by April 12.
“Kentuckians deemed most vulnerable should still get priority, and they will, but we can’t have these vaccines sitting in a freezer. We are in a race against the COVID-19 variants and we’ve got to get it out fast,” said Beshear.
The Governor also announced three new regional vaccination locations, raising the state’s total number of vaccination sites to 570.
The new locations are:
- Cardinal Stadium: 2800 S. Floyd St., Louisville, KY 40209
“The UofL Health-Cardinal Stadium regional vaccination site is an extension of our commitment to make COVID-19 vaccines accessible to all,” said UofL Health Chief Medical Officer Jason Smith, MD, PhD. “In addition to 4,000 vaccinations projected to be provided daily at Cardinal Stadium, we will continue partnering with churches for vaccinations in underserved neighborhoods and operate three other drive-thru locations.”
- Whitney Young Elementary: 3526 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd., Louisville, KY 40212
- Starting today, individuals who live in West Louisville can go to NortonHealthcare.com to register for vaccination appointments that begin April 1 at this location.
- For people who need assistance with the registration process, Humana and Norton Healthcare (partners managing the site) will soon announce a toll-free number for scheduling appointments. This number will be intended for use by people who live in West Louisville.
“We are proud to be a part of this important initiative,” said Russell F. Cox, Norton Healthcare president and CEO. “Partnering with Humana and Jefferson County Public Schools – organizations that share a commitment to ensuring equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines – aligns with our intent in establishing Norton Healthcare’s Institute for Health Equity. We’re grateful for the leadership Gov. Beshear and his team continue to provide during this pandemic.”
“It’s an honor for Humana to partner with Norton Healthcare, JCPS, the commonwealth of Kentucky and organizations in the community to establish this critical vaccination effort in West Louisville,” said William Shrank, M.D., Humana’s Chief Medical Officer. “We are working hard in the West End and across the country to ensure more equitable distribution of the vaccine. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black Americans, and vaccination rates to date are the lowest for Black and Hispanic populations. We are focused on addressing this and look forward to opening the vaccination site in West Louisville soon.”
- Kentucky Dam Village Convention Center: 113 Administration Drive, Gilbertsville, KY 42044
- Vaccination appointments will begin to be filled March 24, but Kentuckians can pre-register now at kyvax.com/kydam or call 859-217-4679.
- When someone pre-registers, they will receive an invitation to sign up for an appointment once one becomes available.
- Multiple partners are helping stand up and manage this site: the University of Kentucky, Wild Health, the Marshall County Health Department and Kentucky State Parks.
Kentuckians can find a map of all regional vaccination sites, as well as lists of additional sites in stores and independent pharmacies here.
Unemployment Insurance Update
Today, Amy Cubbage, general counsel for Beshear, updated Kentuckians on unemployment insurance (UI).
New Log-In and Home Screen
A new, more secure and user-friendly UI log-in and home screen will launch tomorrow. All users will need to start with the “Log in” to get started with the new registration process. The Kentucky Career Center home page will have information and a tutorial video about the new registration process.
Waiver for Returning Overpayments
Cubbage said Gov. Beshear signed Senate Bill 7 (SB 7), which provides a waiver option for Kentuckians who received requests to return UI overpayments. Unemployment insurance claimants who were notified that they were overpaid can appeal that determination first. If those overpayment determinations are not overturned on appeal, claimants can seek a waiver.
“The Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) is reviewing the language in SB 7 and will be working with U.S. Department of Labor federal guidance in order to implement the new waiver program as quickly as possible,” said Cubbage.
Bank of America Debit Card Balances
Finally, Cubbage said claimants now have until March 31 to spend balances on Bank of America debit cards. If claimants have funds remaining on their card after that time, OUI will send them a paper check with that balance.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Beshear reported the following COVID-19 numbers:
New cases today: 785
New deaths today: 448
Positivity rate: 3.23%
Total deaths: 5,504
Currently hospitalized: 449
Currently in ICU: 110
Currently on ventilator: 57
Top counties with the most positive cases today are: Jefferson, Fayette and Simpson. Each county reported at least 35 new cases.
To see a list of those reported lost to the virus today, click here.
Beshear explained the state reported record deaths today because 417 of those deaths were determined to have been caused by COVID-19 after an additional death certificate audit. When Ohio conducted the same type of audit, they reported 4,000 additional deaths; Indiana reported more than 1,500 additional deaths after this type of audit.
“The way that we normally get our information on deaths is through local health departments. We then check the information, make sure it is a COVID-19 death – it goes through a committee – and then it moves onto our report. That’s why sometimes local health departments will report a death earlier than we do.
“There are some deaths we receive that we determine are not a COVID-19 death. Our commitment is first to be accurate, but second, to make sure that there are no unknown soldiers, that we account for every single individual we’ve lost and we recognize every single grieving family. So what we have done is we have pulled every death certificate from November to the end of January that lists COVID-19. We have then compared those to what we have reported, what came up from the local health departments.
“For those who we don’t have a report for, we then see if there is a positive COVID-19 test we can connect their case to. With those, where we know the individual had it, we then look at the documentation in the same way that we would if it came up through the local health department.”
Kentucky’s COVID-19 Vaccine Website, vaccine.ky.gov, shows Kentuckians which phase they are in specifically. Individuals can sign up for notifications so state officials can communicate with them when doses become available at new and existing sites. Kentucky’s vaccine map lists regional vaccination partners statewide, so individuals can search their county or region and see how to schedule an appointment. Below the vaccine map, Kentuckians can find additional vaccination sites at Kroger, Walmart and Walgreens stores, as well as independent pharmacies.
Kentucky’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline, 855-598-2246 or TTY 855-326-4654 (for deaf or hard-of-hearing Kentuckians), has the same features as the website. Kentuckians can get assistance completing the vaccine eligibility questionnaire and scheduling an appointment when doses are available. The hotline is available 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.
Free or reduced-cost transportation to and from vaccine appointments is offered by public transit agencies across the commonwealth. These services are already operating in over 90 counties, covering 75% of all counties across Kentucky. Kentuckians can find transportation services near them by heading to kycovid19.ky.gov for a full list of participating public transit agencies and their phone numbers, or by calling the Kentucky COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline.