Over 1 in 4 Kentuckians tested for coronavirus are positive; hospitals filling up with Covid-19 patients, get National Guard help

State Department for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky. Health News; to enlarge, click on it.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

As the Omicron variant surges across Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said the most important thing is to protect the state’s hospital capacity, which is filling up, with only 134 intensive-care beds available.

Beshear said 33 of the state’s 96 acute-care hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages, and 445 members of the National Guard are helping with the workload at 27 hospitals and 10 other health-care facilites.

“Our main goal right now has to be to not allow our hospitals to get overrun,” Beshear said at his regular Monday afternoon news conference about the pandemic.

“The way we prevent this happening . . . are vaccinations and boosters,” he said, adding later, “If you are unvaccinated, for many people this is hitting them like a freight train. And the vast majority of those ending up in the hospital are unvaccinated.”

State chart, adapted by KHN; to enlarge, click on it.

Kentucky hospitals reported 1,873 Covid-19 patients Monday, with 452 of them in intensive care and 238 of them on mechanical ventilation.

Since last Monday, Covid-19 hospitalizations in Kentucky are up 18.6%. Nine of the state’s 10 hospital readiness regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care capacity, with four them above 90%.

Kentucky has reported 17,034 new cases of the coronavirus since Saturday, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 7,813. That’s 89 percent higher than last Monday. Each day since set a new record.

That made for the state’s highest weekly case number since the beginning of the pandemic. In the week ended Jan. 9, Kentucky reported 52,603 cases, beating the previous weekly record of 30,680 in early September.

Beshear warned that this number could be even higher in coming weeks. “We have never seen an escalation like this,” he said. “Omicron continues to burn through the commonwealth growing at levels we have never seen before.”

Of the 5,049 cases reported Monday, 19.5% are in people under 18. Beshear said 23 Kentucky children are hospitalized with Covid-19, with four in intensive care and three on mechanical ventilation.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days is 26.33%, which has set new records each of the last 12 days. “We have never seen that before,” said Beshear.

State Department for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky. Health News; top enlarge, click on it.

The rate is calculated from 120,000 to 150,000 tests per day across the state and does not include any at-home test results.

Health Commissioner Steven Stack said because Omicron is not hitting people as hard as the Delta variant, the length of stay in hospitals may be shorter. However, he said the recovery time for patients who have been in intensive care often requires an extended stay.

He said hospitals work to help each other care for patients when their facilities become overrun, but with the stat and nation seeing escalation of cases, the entire system is overrun.

Stack said some rural hospitals are reporting they are having trouble finding larger hospitals to take their patients that need to be cared for in an intensive care unit, which means that “very sick people can remain stuck in small rural hospitals for extended periods of time without access to sub-specialty medical and surgical care.”

“This is why I continue to urge all the people in the public need to help contribute to the solution,” he said, including getting a vaccine or booster, wearing a well-fitted mask in indoor spaces and not going to the emergency department for a Covid-19 test.

He added that because the demand for testing is “unlike anything we’ve ever seen before” it’s important to stay home if you are sick: “If you can’t get a test, but have mild to moderate illness, stay at home and do not go to school or work until you feel better.”

Amidst a “frightening surge” of Covid-19 cases in Louisville, a new mass testing site opened at Churchill Downs on Monday, WDRB reports.

Stack also went over a new list of school isolation and quarantine guidance that line up with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggestions. The rules are less stringent for schools that require masking.

Ky. Department for Public Health table

And while the share of Kentuckians getting vaccinated and boosted continues to creep up, Beshear said it’s still not high enough.

“If you’ve been waiting, if there is some excuse, please go out and get boosted immediately. . . Get that booster and get it as fast as you can,” he said.

Kentucky’s daily Covid-19 infection rate over the last seven days is 160.74 cases per 100,000 residents. Six Kentucky counties, all in metropolitan areas, have rates above 200 per 100,000: Jefferson, 259.2; Fayette, 251.1; Campbell, 242.3; Boyd, 208.5; Boone, 206.4; and Oldham, 202.7.

The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate 20th among states, reporting a 578% increase in cases in the last 14 days. Jefferson County’s 727% increase is 63rd among the approximately 3,200 U.S. counties.

The state reported 67 more Covid-19 deaths since Saturday, bringing the pandemic death toll to 12,425. One of the deaths was a 21-year-old from Johnson County. The 14-day death average is holding steady, at 25 per day.

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