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Kentucky hits record 20.72% positivity on COVID cases; St. Elizabeth postpones elective surgeries

Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky’s positivity rate hit 20.72%, the highest rate ever, and St. Elizabeth confirmed that it is postponing elective surgeries that require an overnight hospital stay through mid-January.

On Dec. 30, 6,441 cases were reported in Kentucky, the highest ever in a single day. The previous highest number was 5,742 cases reported Jan. 6, 2021. Monday’s test positivity rate, 20.72%, is the highest ever.

“The most important thing for everyone to hear today is that omicron has not only come to the Commonwealth, it has hit us harder, in terms of escalation of cases, than anything we have seen to date,” said Gov. Beshear. “We have gone from the plateau to the second highest week of reported cases since the start of the pandemic.”

Gov. Andy Beshear

COVID hospitalizations at St. Elizabeth have been rapidly climbing, forcing the hospital to hold off scheduling any additional same-day and elective surgeries that require admissions through January 8 and halting any non-emergency add-on cases until mid-January.

“Our community is in the midst of a surge from a mix of Delta variant infections and Omicrom variant infections, the latter stain having a much shorter doubling time and infection rate,” said a statement released by St. Elizabeth Heathcare. “At the conclusion of the holiday season and people gathering, we are expecting to see incidence rates in our region over the next few weeks.”

During the week ending Jan. 2, Kentucky reported 29,955 new COVID-19 cases and an average positivity rate of 20.38%. This is approximately twice the number of cases as were reported the week prior (15,255). This is also the second-highest week of reported cases since the start of the pandemic, surpassed only by the week of Aug. 30, 2021 during the Delta variant wave.

“The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly. Omicron spreads so easily, it is compared to measles, the most contagious human virus on the planet,” said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH). “Hospitalization numbers are also increasing, though not yet as rapidly as cases, but health care resources are stretched very thin due to both the increased number of COVID patients in hospitals coupled with an even more strained health care workforce due to workers who are themselves out sick with COVID.”

Due to the volume of COVID-19 cases and the speed at which the omicron variant is spreading, individuals who test positive should self-isolate, notify their close contacts and contact their health care provider if symptoms worsen or if they need to seek medical care.

KDPH has revised the guidance for the general public in light of the changes presented by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week allowing for shortened isolation and quarantine under certain circumstances. Click here to review the CDC guidance. Institutes of higher education may follow the guidance for the public. Health care facilities (including long-term care) should follow the health care personnel guidance for isolation and quarantine (updated 12/23/2021).

KDPH guidance for K-12 Schools and Early Childhood Education remain unchanged and schools/child care centers should continue to follow this guidance: Universal use of masks and physical distancing are still recommended, and test-to-stay remains an option for K-12 students who are exposed and asymptomatic.

Vaccine Effectiveness Against Omicron Variant

Dr. Stack said overwhelmingly, people who suffer severe COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines remain highly effective for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted, if eligible. The U.S. Food and Drug and Administration authorized the COVID vaccine booster for children 12-15. The CDC is expected to meet later this week to discuss whether the agency will officially recommend the booster shots for kids ages 12 to 15.

Monoclonal Antibodies Update

Dr. Stack said, unfortunately, two of the three monoclonal antibodies FDA-authorized for COVID-19 in the United States are ineffective against the omicron variant. As such, new shipments of those antibodies to Kentucky have ended as of Jan. 3, 2022. The third FDA-authorized monoclonal antibody is available nationwide in only very limited quantities. Unless supplies increase and/or new monoclonal antibodies effective against the omicron variant are released, supplies in Kentucky will be extremely limited and many treatment locations will not have monoclonal antibodies to offer at their sites.

“Particularly given the loss of most of the monoclonal antibody supply, I again urge all eligible persons 5 and older to get vaccinated and/or boosted with a Moderna or Pfizer mRNA COVID-19 vaccine to prevent serious and/or life-threatening COVID-19 disease,” said Dr. Stack.

Oral Antivirals

Dr. Stack said the Merck antiviral pill is available in Kentucky for the first time today. Only 3,300 treatment courses were allocated to Kentucky, so supplies are very limited.

There is a new page on the kycovid19.ky.gov website that shows where to find the drug at 10 initial Walgreens locations.

“There is very little medication and a great demand. It is very likely these pharmacies will run out of their supply quickly. This is not their fault. Please be kind and patient with the staff at these pharmacies,” said Dr. Stack.

The Pfizer antiviral pill will arrive in Kentucky this week. Its supply is even more limited – Kentucky has only received 720 treatment courses. Because the supply is so small, it will be given to a small number of nursing home pharmacies and federally qualified health care centers in the early weeks to ensure it reaches some of the most vulnerable Kentuckians.

COVID-19 Case Information, Vaccinations Update

Number of people who have received at least one vaccine dose in Kentucky: 2,781,123

Jan. 1, Cases: 4,359
Jan. 1, Deaths: 26
Jan. 2, Cases: 2,767
Jan. 2, Deaths: 24

New Cases Today: 4,111
New Deaths: 15
Today’s Positivity Rate: 20.72%
Current Hospitalizations: 1,579
Current Intensive Care Admittances: 373
Currently on Ventilators: 205

On Monday, Boone County reported 140 new cases, Kenton County 114 new cases and Campbell County 87. All three counties are in the RED zone on cases, as are most Kentucky counties.

The Governor said 62% of all Kentuckians have received at least their first dose, as well as 66% of Kentuckians ages 5 and older and 74% of all Kentucky adults.

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