Gov. Andy Beshear announced a brand new daily case record on Thursday and the end of restaurant and bar closures as the state readies to start distributing vaccines.

Beshear announced 4,324 new daily COVID-19 cases, a new record, and 28 new deaths.

Despite the new record, Beshear believes numbers will soon fall.

“We've got to plateau before we can decrease,” he said. “When we discuss COVID as being a fast-moving train, it doesn't just immediately turn. You've got to slow down, stop it, and turn it around.”

Beshear will let his restrictions on the variety of public venues, including bars and restaurants, gyms and event spaces, expire on Monday. Bars, restaurants and other affected spaces will go back to 50% capacity indoors.

But Beshear said the reopening hinges on a renewed commitment to enforcing the mask mandate.

“This was always intended to be a time-limited shock to the system,” he explained. “It worked in July to plateau cases. We feel that it may work now. We're attempting to certainly buy time until the start of vaccinations. This is a strong motivator to reinforce the mask mandate, that was enforced in July. We saw how good that worked.”

Beshear highlighted the positivity rate, which decreased for the seventh day consecutively. He said this shows exactly what the state's caseload may be like in the coming weeks, calling it a “very positive development.”

Vaccines are also inching nearer to becoming obtainable in Kentucky. On Thursday, Pfizer's emergency use authorization was recommended, and could be available as soon as Dec. 15.

Another two shipments of Pfizer's vaccine are expected in December, all of which will visit long-term care facilities.

“We hope, and it's a hostile schedule, that we can vaccinate our long-term care community in 2 months, before March 1,” Beshear said. “It represents 66% of all of the fatalities we have in Kentucky. Eliminating that will be a significant gamechanger.”

Moderna's vaccine could become available a few days after Pfizer's first shipment. It will be dispersed to hospitals that weren't included in the first group of 11 announced last week.

After healthcare workers, Beshear said he hopes to get educators vaccinated.

“Not just to have in-person classes, but to be able to, we hope within this next semester, have larger and larger and safer capacities within our school buildings,” he said. “We know how important it is to obtain kids to in-person learning.”

On Monday or Tuesday, Beshear said he'll advise red counties on how they are able to go back to in-person learning.

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack gave an update around the state's health districts, which comprise several counties each. Region 3, including Jefferson County, is at approximately 66%. Four districts have ICU occupancies higher than 80%.

Region 10 – Adair, Casey, Clinton, Cumberland, Greene, McCreary, Pulaski, Russell, Taylor and Wayne counties – has the highest ICU occupancy at 97.8%.

“When you go over 85% full, you have to start making difficult choices,” Stack said. “Not every bed, not every staff member can take care of the same sorts of people. Not every ICU does the same sort of intense medical care.”

More than 1,750 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, which 442 have been in the ICU and 231 are on ventilators.