FRANKFORT, Ky (AP) — Kentucky residents 40 and up are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday that the state has now vaccinated about 40% of Kentucky adults.

“We also believe we’ve vaccinated about 70% of Kentuckians who are age 70 and up,” Beshear, a Democrat, added. Residents 16 and older will become eligible for the vaccine on April 12.

The state’s vaccination program is currently in phase 1C, which also includes anyone older than 16 with high-risk medical conditions and anyone deemed an essential worker.

Kentucky reported 310 confirmed coronavirus cases and 11 virus-related deaths Monday.

When asked about the possibility of lifting some public health orders as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, Beshear insisted that some measures, particularly the state’s mask mandate, continue to be important, in slowing the spread of new coronavirus variants.

“This thing is still dangerous. It’s still killing people, and it still is going to continue to kill people until we stop it. We have to get enough people vaccinated before the variants come in,” he said.

He added that Kentucky has identified 41 cases of the COVID-19 variant that has been seen in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner, said that the state continues to monitor the spread of COVID-19 variants, and urged Kentuckians to get a vaccine to protect themselves and others.

He said that a state study of the spread of a variant in a eastern Kentucky nursing home found that vaccines “precipitously dropped the amount of symptoms people had, even if they had the infection when they were tested and … also dramatically protected people from going in the hospital and suffering consequences as bad as death.”

“The vaccines are our exit strategy,” Stack said. “We really, really can’t afford to be cavalier about this, so please get the vaccine as soon as you’re able to.”

The state’s test positivity rate is 2.89%. The positivity rate is an indicator of the extent of the spread of the virus, according to the World Health Organization. If the rate is less than 5% for two weeks and testing is widespread, the virus is considered under control.

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.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal. The vast majority of people recover.


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Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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