Health

Gov. Andy Beshear announced that coronavirus restrictions will be loosened at some long-term care facilities in Kentucky this weekend.

The new guidance applies to assisted living, personal care homes and independent living communities. Indoor visitation, communal dining and group activities will continue for people who have completed the vaccination process starting Saturday. But it doesn’t apply to Medicare-certified facilities, such as skilled nursing facilities.

“What this means is once someone is better protected from this disease, we want them to be able to see their loved ones,” Beshear said. “Again, this doesn’t apply to the highest-level of care facilities yet.”

Only one visitor or two individuals from the same household are permitted at a time, and visits should be scheduled with facilities to prevent mass gatherings. A negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination is required.

Restrictions at certified facilities can’t be lifted until new federal guidance is issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Beshear said. The full guidance will be posted on the Cabinet for Health & Family Services website on Friday.

Vaccination Sites Increased

Beshear announced 28 new vaccination sites throughout the state at his coronavirus briefing on Thursday. The additions bring the number of vaccination sites in Kentucky to 291.

The six newest regional vaccination sites will be in Albany, Cadiz, Campbellsville, Hartford, Marion and Maysville. Kroger and Walmart are each adding 10 more vaccinations sites at their stores.

“There is a provider that has vaccine close to where everybody lives in the commonwealth,” Beshear said. “There are some areas where we might have to drive just a little bit further, but we continue to build this out.”

More than 555,000 Kentuckians have received a first dose. Beshear said some Moderna shipments have been delayed due to the weather, but he doesn’t expect any long-term issues at vaccination sites.

The governor reported 963 new COVID-19 cases. It’s the lowest total for a Thursday since Oct. 8. Despite the steady decline in new cases, daily death tolls remain high, with 37 new confirmed COVID deaths announced Thursday.

Weather Affects Testing

The test positivity rate increased slightly to 7.07%. Beshear attributed the uptick to the inclement weather, saying fewer asymptomatic people are getting tested.

“Testing is significantly down this week as opposed to last week,” he said. “That’s both good and bad. We’d like testing to be up this week, but what it tells us is it’s definitely weather related and not people just not getting testing anymore. We’d had a gradual decline, but still a healthy number of tests last week and the week before.”

Beshear said the recent decline in cases isn’t related to the weather, though it could have an effect over the next couple of weeks.

The recent snow storms caused 154,000 Kentuckians to lose power. Power has since been restored to about 85,000 customers. Kentucky State Police will fly Kentucky Power employees to eastern Kentucky on Friday to amplify repair efforts.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.