FRANKFORT, KY — Gov. Andy Beshear reported 645 new COVID-19 cases in Kentucky Thursday, as well as 16 additional virus-related deaths.

Beshear said two of the deaths reported Thursday occurred in April, six occurred in March, and the others happened earlier. The governor said all 16 of the lives lost were reported to the state by health departments. No new deaths were reported through the state's audit of death certificates listing COVID-19 as a cause. 

The governor said Kentucky's positivity rate for COVID-19 test results is 2.81% Thursday, down from Wednesday's rate of 2.87%. 

Of the new cases reported Thursday, Beshear said only one is a resident of a long-term care facility, and only five are staff members from those facilities. "That is the power of vaccines," Beshear said. Long-term care facilities were among the first groups to receive COVID-19 vaccine allocations in Kentucky, and case numbers in those facilities have dropped since vaccines were provided. 

Beshear again urged Kentuckians to get vaccinated as soon as possible. He encouraged people to get whichever vaccine is available to them first — specifically, not to wait for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The governor said Kentucky is not receiving nearly as much of that vaccine as the state previously expected. The state will only receive about 7,800 doses of that vaccine in the coming week, compared to 65,000 last week. Beshear said all the COVID-19 vaccines approved in the United States are highly effective against the virus. 

The governor said the longer people wait to get vaccinated, the longer it will take to ease restrictions and the more likely that variants will continue to crop up and spread. So far, 113 cases of known variants of concern have been confirmed in Kentucky, including 111 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that was first found in the United Kingdom and one case each of the B.1.427 and B.1.429 variants first identified in California in February.

Beshear said on Monday he will make an announcement regarding goals the state can shoot for when it comes to removing business capacity restrictions, depending on vaccinations. 

The governor highlighted six providers that have large numbers of available vaccine appointments. Those include the Christian County Health Department, the Kroger Health site at Greenwood Mall in Bowling Green, The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Baptist Health Corbin and the Pikeville Medical Center. 

The governor also emphasized that the University of Louisville Cardinal Stadium drive-through vaccine site will open Monday with 4,000 vaccine appointments available each day. Beshear said the site still has more than 11,000 open appointment slots for its first week of operation. Appointments at that location can be made by visiting uoflhealth.org or calling 502-681-1435.

Appointments at any of the Kroger sites can be made by visiting Kroger.com/COVIDVaccine. Appointments can be made through the Christian County Health Department by visiting ChristianCountyhd.com, and Pikeville Medical Center appointments can be made by visiting pmcvaccine.com

There are many vaccine providers in the Local 6 area that have available appointments as well. Click here for more information about COVID-19 vaccine providers in the Local 6 area.  

To date, Kentucky has had 431,487 known cases of COVID-19, including 6,214 deaths.