Omicron keeps setting records; tests are over 30% positive, not counting home tests; hospitals adopt crisis standards for staffing

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

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

As the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continued to set new records in Kentucky and Covid-19 hospitalizations accelerated, some hospitals moved into what is called “crisis standards for staffing.”

Kentucky reached a new high for the number of Covid-19 cases reported in a Monday-to-Sunday reporting week, 72,165. That’s more than double the records set during the Delta surge, said Gov. Andy Beshear.

On Saturday, the state reported 14,896 reported new cases, a record for one day. More than 1 million Kentuckians (1,014,703) have now had a confirmed case. Of today’s 8,742 new cases, 27.8% were in people 18 and younger.

Another record: the share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days hit yet another, 30.25%. “We never dreamed that almost one out of every three people being tested would be positive,” Beshear said.

Those numbers do not include any at-home tests, and the case numbers do not indicate any positive test results, which may not be accompanied by symptoms.

The state’s daily report was the first since Friday, due to the Martin Luther King holiday. The seven-day rolling average of new cases surged to a record 10,673 on Monday but dropped slightly Tuesday, to 10,572.

The statewide daily incidence rate is 213 cases per 100,000 residents. The rate in 41 of the state’s 120 counties is above 200 cases per 100,000, and every county has more than 25 cases per 100,000, considered a high level of transmission, putting all of them in red on the state infection map.

Despite the big increases, most other states are in worse shape. The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s rate 44th among the states, with a 47% increase in cases in the last 14 days.

Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Ky. Health News

But hospital numbers continue to go up, causing some to instigate “crisis standards for staffing,” which give them to have latitude for bringing staff back from quarantine or isolation. State Health Commissioner Steven Stack said more than 450 National Guard members continue to support the state’s health-care facilities.

“It is a tough time to work in a hospital,” Stack, an emergency-room physician by trade, said as he thanked them for their service.

Hospitals reported 2,200 Covid-19 patients on Tuesday; 431 of them in intensive care and 244 on mechanical ventilation.

Recently, public-health experts in major cities have noted that many patients with Covid-19 were admitted with other conditions but were identified as such after they tested positive for the virus, Beshear said hospitals are not breaking down those patients into different categories.

Asked about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that allows the federal government to require vaccination of employees at health-care facilities that get federal money, Beshear said he expects very few workers in such facilities to refuse vaccination, so it should not have any significant impact on their workforces.

Nine of the state’s 10 hospital regions are using at least 80% of their intensive care beds, and five of them are above 90%. Northern Kentucky is at 100%.

With hospital capacity so stretched across the state, Beshear again encouraged Kentuckians to get vaccinated. “Get vaccinated, get boosted and you’re very unlikely to end up in the hospital for Omicron,” he said.

Three-fourths of of Kentuckians 18 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, but health experts say three doses of the Pfizer of Moderna vaccines, including a booster shot, are needed for Omicron immunity.

Both the percentage of adults and children 5-11 who have been vaccinated increased by one percentage point recently, but only 19% of those children have had a shot, With schools reopening, Beshear said, “We have to do better.”

So far, 2.8 million Kentuckians have gotten at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, or 63% of the total population; 2.4 million are fully vaccinated, or 55% of the total. Among the fully vaccinated population, 959,754, or 39%, have been received a booster shot.

In yet another push for shots as a way to stay out of the hospital or to have less severe symptoms,  Beshear said, “If you are unvaccinated, it hits you like a Mack truck and we see people in the hospital and dying from Omicron because of that failure to get vaccinated.”

Addressing unvaccinated people who think they can get monoclonal-antibody treatment or an anti-viral pill if they get sick, Stack said there is not enough of the anti-viral medications available to meet demand.

“The bottom line is that you can’t rely on finding these medications reliably, no matter how we distribute them, and this won’t change before the Omicron surge recedes,” Stack said. “Vaccines though remain abundant and are highly effective in preventing severe and life-threatening disease.”

Stack noted President Biden’s plan to make 1 billion at-home tests directly available to the public. You may order four at-home tests per household at

Besehar said 294 state prison staff and 392 inmates have tested positive in the current outbreak but no inmates have been hospitalized. He said the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex, the Kentucky State Reformatory and the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women have been quarantined and 85% of all inmates have been vaccinated, with 55% of them boosted.

Beshear also listed state veterans’ centers with cases: one at the Eastern Kentucky Veteran Center, one at Radcliff Veterans Center; two at Thompson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore; and five cases at Western Kentucky Veterans Center. 

Beshear said he had not heard of any outbreaks in Kentucky nursing homes.

The state has reported 131 more Covid-19 deaths since Friday, with one of the deaths a 28-year-old, three of them in their 30s, and 10 of them in their 40s. The pandemic death toll in Kentucky is 12,614.

“If you are in your 40s, this thing is killing you right now,” said Beshear. “Please get vaccinated.”

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