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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear announced Thursday that COVID-19 vaccinations will soon be opened to a wider group of Kentuckians.

Currently, anyone 50+ years of age can sign up for the vaccines, but the Governor stated, “Starting this coming Monday, we are asking all of our vaccination clinics to open up to individuals 40 and older. This will mean everyone in 1A, 1B and 1C, it’s open for you; and now individuals 40 and up as well. That was the next priority group after 1C.”

Last Thursday, Beshear also said that he hopes to open up vaccinations to everyone 16 and older no later than April 12.

There were 726 new cases of the coronavirus reported to state public health officials on Thursday, which the Governor said was the lowest Thursday total in at least a month. It raises the pandemic total to 423,414.

The top 10 counties were Jefferson with 121, Fayette 49, Scott 39, Kenton 34, Daviess and Simpson 22, Christian and Warren 15, while Boone and McCracken had 14.

The state’s positivity rate was 2,92%, based on a seven-day rolling average. That was up 0.07% from Wednesday but made it five days in a row at less than 4%.

There were 403 Kentuckians hospitalized Thursday, down 35 from Wednesday. Of them, 106 were in the ICU, up three from the previous day; and 49 were on a ventilator, compared to 87 on Wednesday.

Thursday saw 19 new deaths, based on reports from local health departments. Those victims ranged in age from 46 to 95.

Four of them were from Jefferson County; two in Kenton County; and one each in Barren, Christian, Clark, Daviess, Fayette, Gallatin, Greenup, Jackson, Marshall, Montgomery, Taylor, Washington, and Woodford counties.

There were also another 88 deaths from the ongoing audit taking place of death certificates between November and the end of January. That made Thursday’s total 107, and overall, 5,970 Kentuckians lost to COVID-19.

“The message to share with the public is how important these vaccines are and just how well they work,” said State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack. “This is your shot of hope, it’s our shot of hope and it’s how we get out of this pandemic that has upended our lives for the past year and has taken so many of our loved ones from us.”

A total of 1,249,021 Kentuckians have now had at least their first vaccination.

The governor also announced four new vaccination centers are opening up: Paul V. Hall Regional Medical Center in Paintsville, Casey County Hospital in Liberty, and Jane Todd Crawford Hospital in Greensburg. There are now 573 vaccination centers throughout the state.

The number of “Red Zone” counties in Kentucky, those with a seven-day average of at least 25 cases per 100,000 population, has now dropped to seven. Four counties in western Kentucky that are in the green, have reported less than one case per 100,000 population in the last seven days. A map showing the incidence rate in all 120 counties, accompanies this story.

To see the full daily COVID-19 report for Kentucky, which includes such information as the red zone counties and red zone recommendations, testing locations, vaccine information, the weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports for Kentucky, executive orders, and other information on the state’s pandemic response, go to kycovid19.ky.gov.

Gov. Beshear’s next scheduled press briefing on COVID-19 will be on Monday afternoon, although his office is expected to release daily numbers throughout the weekend.

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