Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear held his last regular COVID-19 briefing Friday as he signed an executive order ending COVID-19 restrictions.
Beshear held what would be the first of 250 COVID-19 briefings in March, 2020, just as the threat of the pandemic was beginning. Fifteen months and more than 461,000 coronavirus cases later, on Friday, Beshear spoke at the state capitol building to update the public on the pandemic for the final time.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Beshear’s COVID-19 briefings became a communal moment for many people, and the slogan “Beers with Beshear” caught on as the state shut down. Beshear asked Kentuckians to honor people who died from the virus by using green lighting outside homes. Last fall, as deaths mounted, Beshear pleaded with people to wear masks as cases spread through long-term care homes.
On Friday, Beshear reported nine new deaths and 253 new coronavirus cases. He said new positive cases have continued to decline and that the state received a good report from the federal government Friday.
“The very last federal report that we get moved us from red to yellow and moderate transmission,” Beshear said. “It’s been more than a year since we have seen a report like this coming from the federal government with virtually every single category, going down and having done so for multiple weeks.”
Beshear signed an executive order ending state restrictions. Masks will still be required in some medical settings.
But he said the virus is still here. More than 7,100 Kentuckians have died since last March.
“So of today’s nine deaths, one had been vaccinated. What we are seeing in terms of deaths is about what’s been reported on the effectiveness of the vaccines,” Beshear said. “And again, COVID is a contributing factor. It doesn’t mean it’s the sole factor.”
Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s top health official, said the state undertook a massive effort to vaccinate people.
“We have vaccinated more than 2.1 million Kentuckians in less than six months,” Stack said. “Typically vaccines for children nationally ships about 80,000 vaccines in six months.”
Daily COVID-19 reports that include new cases, deaths and other stats about the virus will continue to be published Monday through Friday. Beshear said more than 370,000 Kentuckians have registered for the state’s new $1 million drawing for people who get a COVID vaccine shot. There will be a permanent memorial at the Capitol Building to honor people who’ve died from COVID-19, Beshear said. Thousands of miniature flags, one for every COVID death, line the lawn outside the Capitol.