Calling it “one of the better [days] we’ve had,” Gov. Andy Beshear announced 331 new cases of COVID-19 in Kentucky on Monday and 10 additional deaths attributable to the virus.

Monday’s new case tally is the lowest single-day increase since Sept. 8.

Last week was the state’s eighth-straight week of declining coronavirus cases. “Everything’s down. This is the exact type of trajectory we want to see as we are vaccinating people,” Beshear said in a live update. “This is in many ways a race against time, against the [coronavirus] variants.”

More cases of the variants continue to pop up in Kentucky. Two of the new cases announced Monday — one in Fayette County and one in Jefferson County — were confirmed to be the variant that originated in the United Kingdom, Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack said. The state has confirmed a total of 411,040 cases and 4,829 deaths.

The statewide positivity rate continues to decline, settling at 4.06 percent on Monday. Coronavirus-related hospitalizations have dropped for 13 days straight, to 539 (the lowest since Oct. 1). Of those, 161 are in intensive care and 82 on a ventilator. Three residents and eight staff in long-term care facilities have tested positive, bringing their combined number of active cases to just under 300.

Earlier on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its first set of post-coronavirus vaccination guidelines that give those fully immunized more freedoms to gather with others indoors. Fully vaccinated people can get together indoors with others who are vaccinated without social distancing or wearing a mask, the CDC said.

Similarly, people who are fully immunized may gather indoors with others from a single household as long as they’re considered at low-risk for severe infection. That means fully vaccinated grandparents can visit with their otherwise healthy grandkids, even if they haven’t received their own dose of vaccine.

Dr. Stack called the new guidance a “big development,” but he warned against throwing caution to the wind.

“A real concern most health professionals have is if people misinterpret this as, ‘We don’t have to pay attention to the virus anymore, and we don’t have to do our masking and social distancing,’” Stack said. “That would be a mistake. If we do that, we run the risk of super-charging the pandemic.”

Close to a quarter of Kentuckians — at least 834,130 — have received at least their first dose of a vaccine, according to Kentucky Department for Public Health data. Seventy percent of those who’ve gotten a dose are age 50 and older, Beshear said.

Federal health officials said previously that a fully vaccinated person no longer needs to quarantine for the requisite 10-14 days if they’re directly exposed to the virus. In public places, health officials continue to urge everyone to wear masks around others, avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing. Kentucky’s statewide mask mandate is still in effect.

While Monday’s guidance radically expands the activities fully inoculated Kentuckians can safely participate in, the CDC did not offer guidance on travel or indoor dining. Last Friday in Kentucky, Beshear loosened capacity restrictions for a large number of indoor businesses, including indoor dining at bars and restaurants, allowing those places to open at 60 percent capacity.

But easing up restrictions hasn’t stopped some of those establishments from continuing to sue the governor. Three Kentucky brewpubs — Goodwood Brewing Company, Trindy’s and Dundee Tavern — filed a lawsuit in Scott County Circuit Court Monday challenging Beshear’s executive orders placing limits on restaurant capacity, arguing that the orders expired when Beshear did not seek an extension as required by Senate Bill 1, which passed last month. The law has been temporarily suspended by Franklin Circuit Court, but Republicans argue the judge’s order only applies to Franklin County.

Herald-Leader writer Daniel Desrochers contributed to this story.

Alex Acquisto covers health and social services for the Lexington Herald-Leader and She joined the newspaper in June 2019 as a corps member with Report for America, a national service program made possible in Kentucky with support from the Blue Grass Community Foundation. She’s from Owensboro, Ky., and previously worked at the Bangor Daily News and other newspapers in Maine.
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