New-case average drops a bit, but daily number is still the sixth highest; Covid-19 hospitalizations rise 4.3% to almost 2,100

State Cabinet for Health and Family Services chart, adapted by Ky. Health News, shows in red the hospital-readiness regions that are using more than 80% of their intensive-care beds; click to enlarge.

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

The pandemic slowed a bit in Kentucky on Thursday, as the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases dropped for the first time since Christmas, but the month-long increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations accelerated.

Kentucky reported 9,267 new cases of the coronavirus, the sixth most in one day, but that was several hundred fewer than last Thursday, so the seven-day average dropped just under 1 percentage point, to 8,297. The state’s infection rate fell slightly, to 169 cases per 100,000 residents, 31st in the nation.

Before the numbers were released, Gov. Andy Beshear was asked if the surge created by the Omicron variant of the virus is reaching its peak, as it appears to be in the United Kingdom. “We do not believe, and we’re not getting information, that Omicron has peaked in the United States yet,” he said, citing experts. “They believe the peak will occur in January. . . . It’s all theory; we really hope it’s true.”

At another point, Beshear said, “Covid cases are skyrocketing. Our expectation is that this week will exceed last week” in new cases.

Meanwhile, the number of patients in Kentucky hospitals with Covid-19 rose 4.3% Thursday, to 2,098. Intensive-care units had 459 of those cases, up 5, and 237 were in mechanical ventilation, down 6. Kentucky Covid-19 hospitalizations have risen 18% in the last week and 39% in the last two weeks; Thursday’s increase was the largest percentage rise in a week.

“Vaccinations are still showing that they are hugely successful in preventing you from getting really sick, hospitalized or prevent you from dying,” Beshear said, “so get vaccinated and get your booster if you haven’t no matter what the excuse is, go get it as fast as you can.”

Beshear noted that the Omicron variant may be the most contagious virus ever found, “and you have the ability to protect yourself.” He laid out what experience and research have shown:

  • “If you are vaccinated and boosted and you get it, probably gonna be like a cold or nothing at all. If you’re vaccinated but not boosted, you may get sick, but you’re very unlikely to end up in the hospital.
  • “If you are unvaccinated, this thing may hit you like a freight train, and worse than that, if you fill up hospital beds as quickly as we’re seeing – I’ve already had to call out the National Guard, and that next person in the car accident might not get the care they need. So get vaccinated for that person. Pay it forward so that they will do the same for you.”

Beshear said more than 5,600 Kentuckians got booster shots Wednesday, but only 21% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated and boosted, so “We need to move even faster.” He said 2,628 Kentuckians got their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine Wednesday, so “We see slow but steady, people continuing to get vaccinated.”

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data analyzed by The Washington Post, vaccine uptake in Kentucky is averaging 11,010 doses per day.

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus rose to a new record, 27.77%, but the figure has become less reliable and meaningful with the advent of in-home tests, which do not have to be reported.

“With so many at-home tests now for Covid, our numbers are much lower than the cases are out there, Beshear said. “You’ve got to expect that significantly more people have Covid . . . even more scary than our very scary stair-stepper chart would show.”

Beshear said he has heard of some businesses with their entire staffs out because of the disease, and that they may even be less traffic on the roads as a result.

The state reported attributed 29 more deaths to Covid-19, raising its pandemic toll to 12,484.

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