FRANKFORT (KT)  Kentucky will be expanding the age groups of those who can sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine next week, Gov. Andy Beshear announced on Wednesday.

“This coming Monday,” he said during a press briefing at the Capitol, “we are opening vaccinations to everyone over 16 for Pfizer, or 18 for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.  That will be a complete opening of all of our vaccination sites to everyone who qualifies under the FDA and CDC decisions.  This is a good day.  It means we will beat the President’s request by a month, to have it opened up to everyone.”

Beshear noted there are a couple reasons for his decision.  “First, we are seeing in a number of states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey, and others, an increase in cases, an increase in hospitalizations, and it’s happening in younger people. This, we believe is because of the more aggressive variants, and we want to get ahead of them.”

The other reason, according to Beshear, “We are seeing some appointments open, we want to make sure that we fill those.”

He also announced the state will soon be opening its largest vaccination site.  “Beginning April 12, U of L Health will open 24 lanes to vaccinate Kentuckians at Cardinal Stadium.  We are accepting sign-ups now, and plan to vaccinate four to five thousand people a day.”

The Cardinal Stadium site will be open for seven weeks with a goal of vaccinating 200,000 people during that time.

On another topic, the governor said they are moving up the timetable for vaccinating inmates at Kentucky’s state prisons, since they will be receiving more Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a one dose medication.

“They are scheduled to receive the amount they need for all their vaccinations, Friday April 2 or Monday April 5, depending on the shipping,” he stated.  “The plan is that all interested inmates will receive a vaccine as soon as next week, with the exception of the Kentucky State Penitentiary and Western Kentucky Correctional Complex, where they are just recovering from an outbreak.  We will administer the vaccine at those two prisons, as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Beshear says the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, sometimes referred to as the UK Variant is showing up in Kentucky.  “We now have 66 total cases, including ten in Allen County, ten in Jefferson County, and up to 13 in Kenton County.”

Leading into the Wednesday report on new cases, the Governor said it is going to be close this week on whether there is a 12th week of declining cases, start to see a plateau.  “We are reporting 815 new cases.  That is more than last week but is less than the week before that and the week before that.”