Kentucky crosses grim COVID threshold: 1 million cases

Ryan C. Hermens/rhermens@herald-leader.com
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As a wave of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to sweep across the Commonwealth, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that the state has reported more than a million total cases of the virus thus far.

The state also hit record-high watermarks on some key metrics. 72,165 people recorded positive tests for the virus last week, more than double the peak during a surge of the Delta variant. The positivity rate is currently the highest it’s ever been at 30.25%, and on Saturday alone a record 14,896 people logged positive tests.

None of those marks include several people who administered tests at home and isolated.

Since last Friday, Beshear said that 131 people have died due to the virus.

In light of the grim numbers, Beshear stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.

“If you are unvaccinated, it hits you like a Mack truck,” Beshear said. “We see people in the hospital and dying from Omicron because of that failure to get vaccinated.”

About three quarters of all people over the age of 18 in Kentucky have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Beshear said. Despite being in the small minority, 85% of everyone hospitalized for the virus in Kentucky is unvaccinated, as were 83.2% of those who died.

Beshear added that while Omicron appears on the whole to be less life-threatening than other variants, especially Delta, it threatens to exhaust the state’s hospital capacity just as badly. Two regions in Kentucky are reporting that around 98% of their intensive care beds are full, mostly thanks to the latest variant. Use of ICU beds and ventilators to treat COVID-19 has not quite hit the highs seen during the Delta variant, but Beshear said that “that could change” given ballooning case numbers.

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky public health commissioner, said that Omicron is unlike any other chapter of the pandemic and that several records are hitting “stratospheric new heights.”

That said, the doctor added that there could be “light ahead” when comparing Kentucky to other states. He pointed out that states like Rhode Island and New York have seen sharp drop offs in their COVID-19 numbers; Stack guessed that those states were about 1.5 to 3 weeks ahead of Kentucky.

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