State’s infection rate still sixth in nation; Beshear blames later Omicron surge and legislature’s removal of his prevention powers

Chart shows how Kentucky’s daily vaccination rate has declined over the last two months.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The metrics used to measure the pandemic in Kentucky continue on a downward trend, but the state’s infection rate remains among the highest in the nation and Gov. Andy Beshear continues to advise caution.

“We’re still heading in the right direction and I’m grateful for that,” he said Thursday. “But … we just had the fifth highest week, we’re still over 20 percent in positivity. People need to be careful for a little bit longer.”

Beshear was asked about the pandemic his weekly “Team Kentucky” press conference, where he did not bring it up on his own, which is not typical.

Kentucky reported 6,967 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 6,053, down 210 from Thursday, and 30% in a week. Of today’s new cases, nearly 25% were in people 18 and younger.

The state’s seven-day infection rate also fell again, to 87.73 daily cases per 100,000 residents. It was 96.28 on Wednesday. In the last week, eight counties have had more than 200 daily cases per 100,000 residents: Owsley, 275; Wolfe, 247.5; Estill, 239; Clay, 233; Lee, 220; Leslie, 205; Perry, 205; and Letcher, 200.

On the state’s infection map, four counties have moved out of the red zone for counties with more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents, which is considered a high level of transmission. They are Campbell, with 24 daily cases per 100,000; Kenton, 22; Grant, 21; and Carlisle, 18.

The New York Times still ranks Kentucky’s infection rate sixth among states, even with a 59% drop in cases in the last 14 days.

Asked why the rate ranks so high, Beshear said one reason is that Kentucky got hit later with the Omicron variants, making the decline in cases would come later. Another reason, he said, is that the General Assembly took away some of his ability to mitigate the virus, which other states have had.

“Certainly, you know, in this spike we didn’t have the same tools available to us as we had in previous ones and that may explain why others go down a little bit faster,” he said. Some school districts have made masks optional; the legislature took away Beshear’s power to require masks in schools or public settings.

The governor did not mention the state’s lower Covid-19 vaccination rate as a reason for the infection rate ranking so high. Becker’s Hospital Review, using CDC data, ranks Kentucky 37th among the states for the percentage of its population fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Research shows that unvaccinated people face the highest risks of becoming sick with Covid-19 and that every additional shot you get adds to your protection, with those who are boosted having the greatest protection from severe illness and death.

Kentucky has 2.5 million fully vaccinated people, or 55% of the population, and 1,047,854 Kentuckians have been boosted, or 42% of the eligible population. At least 2.86 million Kentuckians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, 64% of the total population.

The state’s daily vaccination rate has gradually declined for weeks and is the lowest since vaccines became widely available, with the possible exception of holiday periods. The Washington Post reports that Kentucky’s seven-day average is 4,901, 25% less than the week before.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus in the past seven days has declined for 18 straight days, to 21.16%. A slight dip from Wednesday’s rate of 21.99%.

Hospitals reported 2,117 Covid-19 patients, down 25 from Thursday, with 394 in intensive care and 195 on mechanical ventilation (both down five).

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

The state reported 38 more Covid-19 deaths, bringing Kentucky’s pandemic death toll to 13,254.

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