FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky ushered in the Memorial Day holiday weekend by relaxing pandemic-related limits on crowd sizes as COVID-19 vaccinations continued to climb.

Friday marked the start of a two-week stretch in which Kentucky businesses and events are allowed to operate at 75% capacity. The state also lifted its coronavirus-related curfew on bars and restaurants.

All of the state's coronavirus-related capacity restrictions will end on June 11.

"We are safely and sustainably easing restrictions to limit the spread of COVID as more of our young people get their ‘shot of hope’ and we end this pandemic,” said Gov. Andy Beshear, who recently announced the new round of relaxed restrictions.

“It is really close to back to normal,” the Democratic governor said earlier this week when he announced that more than 2 million Kentuckians had received at least their first COVID-19 shot.

In urging more people to get inoculated, Beshear warned that the return to larger gatherings "comes with a heightened risk” for the unvaccinated.

While more than 80% of people 65 and older in Kentucky have been vaccinated, inoculation rates have lagged among younger Kentuckians.

The governor on Friday praised Kentuckians ages 12 to 17 for their willingness to roll up their sleeves for the shots to “protect themselves and others.”

“These vaccines are a miracle — and they are the key to safe classrooms for our students, teachers and staff,” Beshear said on social media.

The governor reported 415 new coronavirus cases Friday and 10 more virus-related deaths. The new cases included 71 Kentuckians ages 18 or younger.

Kentucky has now had at least 6,758 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began. Four of the deaths announced Friday were discovered from the state’s audit of deaths from prior months.

Nearly 340 virus patients are hospitalized in Kentucky, including 103 in intensive care units. The statewide rate of positive cases was 2.43%, the governor said.

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