State’s positive-test rate above 8%; Beshear and Biden say new Omicron variant creates cause for concern, but not panic

Kentucky Health News graph shows data for the last 30 days.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus in the last seven days is 8.14%, more than a full percentage point higher since the state’s last pandemic report the day before Thanksgiving.
On Thanksgiving eve, the rate hit 7.05%, which was the first time it had been above 7% in five weeks. The quick jump shows how the virus is surging, “And that’s cause for concern,” Gov. Andy Beshear said on Facebook.
“If this hadn’t been Thanksgiving week, this last week . . . would have been our highest week in three or four weeks” in case numbers, Beshear said, referring to testing and reporting lags that happens over holidays. The state’s infection and new-case rates declined over the holiday period.
Since the last report, the state has reported 5,584 new cases, with 943 of them on Monday. Of Monday’s cases, 27% were in people 18 and younger. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 1,763 on Thursday to 1,388 on Saturday, then rose to 1,410 on Monday.
The state’s seven-day daily infection rate is 27.84 cases per 100,000 residents. Counties with rates more than double that rate were Carroll, 75.3; Powell, 75.1; Lawrence, 59.7; and Estill, 56.7. The statewide rate was 33.88 on Thursday, but dropped to 27.46 on Sunday, almost surely due to less testing and reporting.
Beshear also addressed concerns about the new Omicron variant of the virus, which the World Health Organization labeled “a variant of concern” that poses a “very high” global risk. On Monday, President Joe Biden imposed restrictions on travel to the U.S. from several nations in southern Africa.
“It does appear that there is reason for concern, but not for panic,” said Beshear — a message similar to one that Biden shared earlier in the day. The governor added, “So in this uncertain period where we wait, use it to get that booster, pull out that mask again and wear it when you think it’s appropriate, because even without Omicron, our cases have been going up again.”
Norton Healthcare System‘s chief medical officer, Dr. Steven Hester, said at a news conference that his advice at this point is the same as before: wash your hands, wear mask, physical distance when appropriate, get the Covid-19 vaccination and get a booster shot, Sarah Ladd reports for the Courier Journal.

MedicineNet reports on what experts know about the Omicron variant, and says so far the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “no cases of this variant have been identified in the U.S. to date” and that if it emerges in the U.S., the agency expects it to be identified quickly.

No Omicron cases have been identified in the U.S. but are expected. A statement from Biden’s Sunday meeting with the Covid-19 response team on the variant says, “Dr. [Anthony] Fauci informed the president that while it will take approximately two more weeks to have more definitive information on the transmissibility, severity, and other characteristics of the variant, he continues to believe that existing vaccines are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of Covid. Dr. Fauci also reiterated that boosters for fully vaccinated individuals provide the strongest available protection from Covid.”
Kentucky hospitals reported 859 Covid-19 patients Monday, an increase of 41 from Wednesday, with 241 of them in intensive care (up 37) and 111 on mechanical ventilation (up four).
Seven of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using more than 80% of their intensive-care beds. Northern Kentucky is at 100% capacity, with 27.5% of its beds used for Covid-19 patients.
Beshear said the good news in Monday’s Covid report is that with vaccinations given over the holiday weekend, the percentage of Kentuckians who have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine increased to 60%.
Since Thursday, the state has reported 118 more Covid-19 deaths, including 14 reported Monday. That brings the pandemic death toll in Kentucky to 10,913.
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