FRANKFORT (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear implored Kentuckians to avoid large New Year's Eve gatherings, calling it a small sacrifice to slow the spread of the coronavirus as he announced nearly 3,000 new COVID-19 cases and 31 more virus-related deaths on Tuesday.
The governor also announced two new vaccine allocations that will deliver 53,700 more doses to Kentucky for the week of Jan. 4.
Beshear also said he's extending his statewide mask mandate, calling the use of facial coverings “one of the most powerful tools to fight this virus.” The mandate will be renewed again on Jan. 2 for another 30 days, the Democratic governor said.
Beshear reported 2,990 more virus cases statewide but insisted that Kentucky has stopped the “exponential growth” from the most recent virus surge. But he warned that the situation is “very fragile" and actions during the New Year's holiday could “change success into failure.”
Beshear urged people to keep their New Year’s celebrations small in response to the public health threat.
“Remember, going to a big party, hosting a big party, going to any gathering where you’re going to take your masks off will spread this virus," Beshear said during a news conference.
“Please, don’t be an individual that helps spread a virus that kills people," he added. “Be an individual who sacrifices this New Year’s Eve for the ... better health and the safety of everybody around you. Giving up one New Year’s Eve in your life isn’t a lot to ask when it comes to people staying alive.”
The latest report of coronavirus-related deaths included people ranging in ages from 33 to 101. It raised the statewide death total to at least 2,594 since the pandemic began, the governor said.
“It is tragic," he said. “It is heartbreaking. That is a lot of people to lose.”
More than 1,600 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including 380 in intensive care, Beshear said. The statewide rate for positive tests was 8.41%, up from the prior day.
Kentucky has reported more than 261,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the next shipments of vaccines arriving in early January will be used to continue immunizing residents and staff in long-term care facilities along with frontline health care workers.
Beshear said Monday that he hopes to begin the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations — targeting emergency responders, educators and people 70 and older — at the start of February.
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.