TRI-COUNTY – Whitley County reported five deaths related to the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the county's total to 32.

Laurel County reported its 40th death due to COVID-19 on Friday. It was a 54-year-old man.

Knox County reported 26 new cases on Monday with 68 active cases out of a total of 3,055.

Whitley County Health Department reported 13 new cases on Monday with 69 active cases out of a total of 3,293. Five of the active cases are hospitalized.

Laurel County Health Department had not released its Monday numbers as of press time.

Kentucky’s COVID-19 numbers continued to move in the right direction and it was announced that those in priority group 1C will be able to start getting vaccinated in March.

“We’re reporting just 530 new cases of COVID-19,” Gov. Andy Beshear said during a Monday press briefing. “That is the lowest number since October 5.”

No counties had more than 100 cases on Monday. Those with the most were Jefferson 95, Fayette 30, Oldham 24, Campbell 21, Kenton 20, Boone 19, Laurel and Warren 15, McCracken 14, and Carter and Franklin both reported 13.

There have now been 397,526 positive cases of the coronavirus in Kentucky.

The number of deaths reported to state public health officials on Monday stood at 13, down from 21 on Sunday, and bringing the pandemic total to 4,460, since the first death last March.

The latest victims’ ages ranged from 56 to 93. Jefferson County reported six; Fayette and Shelby counties each had two; and there were one each in Bullitt, Daviess, and Mercer counties.

A total of 870 Kentuckians were hospitalized on Monday. Of them, 243 were in the ICU and 119 were on a ventilator. All three figures represent decreases from Sunday.

Kentucky’s positivity rate dropped to 6.60% on Monday, based on a seven-day rolling average. This continues a four-day slide since it stood at 7.07% last Thursday.

The number of red zone counties, those with an incidence rate of 25 or more per 100,000 population, also dropped on Monday to 34. You may recall that for several months, all 120 counties were in the red zone.

Gov. Beshear also announced that the regional COVID-19 vaccination centers will move to priority group 1C, starting March 1. That group includes everyone over the age of 60, anyone age 16 or older with CDC highest risk COVID-19 risk conditions, and all essential workers.

“We expect that local health departments and others will also begin vaccinating 1C individuals, but we’re going to be asking them to be more targeted,” he stated. “We are asking our providers to prioritize those in that group based on age, which is Kentuckians age 60 to 70. That’s at our regional vaccination sites, and it’s also with our local health departments and pharmacies.”

Although restaurant and bar employees are among the more than one million Kentuckians who are in priority group 1C, Beshear says there is no timetable yet on when they can return to 100% of capacity, but it won’t be in the immediate future.

“I think every public health official would say that would be a major mistake,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t loosen a little bit and encourage everybody to continue really good practices.”

In accordance with a proclamation issued by the White House, the governor has directed that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff until sunset on Friday, Feb. 26, to commemorate the milestone of more than 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19, and encourages individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the state to join in this tribute.

Editor Erin Cox contributed to this article.

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