Ky. coronavirus cases trickle down as positive-test rate inches up; Beshear reports state’s first case from Omicron variant

Ky. Dept. for Public Health map, adapted by Ky. Health News; for a larger version, click on it.

UPDATE: The first case of the coronavirus from the highly contagious Omicron variant has been found in Kentucky, “as expected,” Gov. Andy Beshear reported on Twitter Friday evening. Beshear said he and Health Commissioner Steven Stack would hold a press conference at 1 p.m. Saturday. “Kentucky is at risk for rapid spread of the new variant, with just 54% of the state population fully vaccinated,” notes Alex Acquisto of the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Only 17% of residents have received a booster dose of a coronavirus vaccine,” and health experts say a booster is needed for full protection against Omicron.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

As the nation faces what experts say will be exponential growth of the Omicron variant over the holidays, Kentucky is seeing a slow decline in cases but a two-day uptick in the share of residents testing positive for the coronavirus and a continued increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations.

The state reported 2,582 new cases Friday, lowering the seven-day average by 28, to 2,135. Of the new cases, 24% were in people 18 and younger.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive in the past seven days went up for the second day in a row, but stayed in the same range it’s been for nine days. Today’s rate is 8.94%, up from 8.84% on Thursday.

The seven-day infection rate is 42.17 daily cases per 100,000 residents, down from 43.53 on Thursday. Counties with rates more than double that rate were Robertson, 196.5; Menifee, 116.7; Lewis, 116.2; Wolfe, 115.8; and Hancock, 91.7. Kentucky’s infection rate remains 21st among the states, according to The New York Times.

For the first time in a long time, a Kentucky county is in the green zone, for counties with less than one daily case per 100,000 people. Hickman County, with a population of about 4,900, has reported no cases in the last seven days.

Of the state’s 120 counties, 82.5% are in red on the state infection map, representing those with more than 25 daily cases per 100,000 people, considered a high level of transmission.

Hospitals reported 1,255 Covid-19 patients, 19 more than Thursday; with 329 in intensive care (up 14) and 195 of them on mechanical ventilation (up 2). The increase is part of a worrying national trend.

Nine of the state’s 10 hospital readiness regions reported at least 80% of their intensive-care capacity in use, with seven above 90%. Northern Kentucky remains at 100%.

As health officials continue to encourage Kentuckians to get vaccinated and boosted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its guidelines for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which 7% of Kentuckians have received.

On Dec. 16, the CDC endorsed updated recommendations made by its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), saying that people shouldn’t get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when they can get Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, created with messenger RNA.

The decision followed an update from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the risk of rare but potentially life-threatening blood clots linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The CDC news release says, “Given the current state of the pandemic both here and around the world, the ACIP reaffirmed that receiving any vaccine is better than being unvaccinated. Individuals who are unable or unwilling to receive an mRNA vaccine will continue to have access to Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine.”

So far, 2.7 million Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or 62% of the total population; 2.4 million are fully vaccinated, 54% of the total; and 744,729 have received a booster shot, 17% of the total.

The state reported 35 more Covid-19 deaths, bringing its pandemic death toll to 11,754.

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