Ky. again sets records for new Covid-19 cases and positivity rate; governor begs Kentuckians to get vaccinated and wear a mask

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

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky again set records for new coronavirus cases and its positive-test rate Tuesday, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus.

“Omicron is spreading like wildfire throughout Kentucky,” Gov. Andy Beshear said on Facebook. “Everybody needs to get vaccinated and boosted. And folks, you have got to be wearing a mask when you are in public places and indoors right now. Not because anybody’s telling you you have to, but to protect yourself and to try not to spread this to other people. We are seeing a surge the likes of which this country and this world have not seen in our lifetimes.”

KHN graph; case numbers from initial, unadjusted reports; click to enlarge.

Of the 6,915 new cases reported on Tuesday, 20% are 18 and under. The seven-day rolling average for cases is 5,124, more than double what it was a week ago.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is 21.74%, more than a full percentage point above Monday’s rate.

Hospital numbers also jumped. Kentucky hospitals reported 1,646 Covid-19 patients, an increase of 67 from Monday, with 393 of them in intensive care (up 20) and 246 on mechanical ventilation (up 41). The number of Covid-19 patients in Kentucky hospitals is 24% higher than a week ago.

Beshear said there is hope that Omicron “is less severe in its effects” than the Delta variant, but “If this many people continue to get Omicron it will fill up our hospitals and it will create challenges for others who need care.”

Doctors from several Lexington hospitals held a joint press conference to discuss the increasing numbers of cases and to urge Kentuckians to get a Covid-19 vaccine or booster and to wear a mask in indoor spaces, along with other public health measures, to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant.

“The more people we get vaccinated and boosted the more we can help to slow this down and decrease hospitalizations,” said Dr. David Dougherty, an infectious-disease specialist at Baptist Health Lexington. “A lot of us are going to be exposed to Omicron, but if you’re vaccinated and especially if you’re boosted, your chances of getting hospitalized are much lower.”

Baptist Health and St. Elizabeth Healthcare of Northern Kentucky are scaling back inpatient elective surgeries due to the influx of patients.

Seven of the state’s 10 hospital-readiness regions are using at least 90% of their intensive care unit capacity, with three of them at 98% or above. Northern Kentucky is again at 100%.

The state’s daily infection rate is 109.36 cases per 100,000 residents; 24 counties have infection rates over 100 per 100,000 (1 per 1,000), and all but four of the 120 counties are red on the state infection map, for counties with more than 25 cases per 100,000, the state’s highest category of infection.

The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate 25th among the states, reporting a 119% increase in cases in the last 14 days.

The state reported 21 more Covid-19 deaths, bringing the pandemic death toll to 12,255.

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