Omicron BA.2 sub-variant confirmed in Kentucky

The state reports the coronavirus variant has been confirmed in 29 people from 13 different counties

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – During his Team Kentucky briefing Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the omicron BA.2 sub-variant has been confirmed in 29 people from 13 different counties in the state since the first week of February.

The governor says the actual number is likely higher because molecular sequencing is performed on only a small subset of cases.  According to the CDC, last week approximately 35-percent of cases that went through molecular sequencing were identified as the BA.2 variant in the United States.

Gov. Beshear says based on some early studies, BA.2 is thought to spread faster and be more infectious than the initial omicron variant. It is too soon to know whether BA.2 will lead to an overall increase in cases, hospitalizations or deaths or if BA.2 causes more severe disease or can evade immunity from vaccines or prior infections.

The week ending March 20, 8,639 COVID-19 cases were reported in Kentucky and the average test positivity rate was 3.08%.

Here is other news from the update:

On Thursday, joined by lawmakers, advocates and high school students from Madison County, Gov. Beshear signed into law six pieces of legislation recently passed by the General Assembly:

  • Senate Bill 104, which establishes in state law the Employment First Council to better serve and empower Kentuckians with disabilities and provide greater opportunities for these citizens and their families;
  • House Concurrent Resolution 47, which encourages local school districts to purchase available goods from their local farmers and producers;
  • Senate Bill 135, which helps county clerks begin to make more services available online;
  • Senate Bill 106, which will help very small cities without an active city government spend funds to improve the lives of residents;
  • House Bill 144, which provides relief to employers who may still be experiencing slow growth or tight margins due to the effects of the pandemic by reducing their unemployment tax costs and suspending an employer surcharge; and
  • House Bill 436, which makes auctions safer for Kentuckians by making auctioneers more accountable to investigation and enforcement.

“I was heartened to hear that on some of this legislation, the goal was not just to help our businesses in need, but also to make sure our workers who fall on hard times have the benefits they need,” Gov. Beshear said. “I hope we can come out of this session with some form of a safety net still intact. When Kentuckians are knocked down, we ought to be helping them up.”

Tornado Recovery Update
The Governor says that since the quad-state tornado devastated Western Kentucky in December, Kentucky State Parks have provided temporary housing and food to more than 800 individuals and 250 first responders. Recently, parks staff have been working with local and state emergency management to successfully transition impacted families into medium-term housing, such as travel trailers and cottages, or back to their homes. Today state parks continue to provide medium-term housing in cottages and travel trailers to 89 displaced Kentuckians.

As of Wednesday, March 23, 190 people from 61 households were occupying 62 of the available trailers through the Commonwealth Sheltering Program.

On March 15, President Joe Biden signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022. This will increase the previous federal cost share from 75% to 90% for any major disaster declared during the time period of Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2021. Five Kentucky disasters will be included.

From the period of Dec. 27, 2021, through Jan. 25, 2022, the federal government will be paying 100% of the costs of debris removal. From the period of Dec. 12, 2021, through Jan. 10, 2022, the federal government will be paying 100% of the costs of emergency recovery measures, such as sheltering, emergency operations, evacuation and search and rescue.

UofL Health Announces $144 Million Expansion at UofL Hospital

Gov. Beshear joined Louisville leaders to announce a new seven-story tower that will anchor a $144 million expansion and upgrade to UofL Health – UofL Hospital in downtown Louisville. The project will increase the operating capacity and facilitate a modernization to include all private beds throughout the remainder of the hospital. When complete, UofL Hospital will offer more than 360 beds, each in a private room, 20 operating rooms, plus a new 24-bed observation unit. Alongside the increased clinical space, the expansion will include an enhanced visitor experience with a new lobby, waiting area, along with updates to the gift shop and coffee shop. To learn more, see the full release.

Gov. Beshear Awards $5.3 Million in Tourism Recovery Funding

Wednesday, Gov. Beshear joined the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and members of the General Assembly to announce that 103 tourism and destination marketing organizations in 88 Kentucky counties will receive a total of $5.3 million in funding. To learn more, see the full release.

Gov. Beshear Awards $5.4 for Infrastructure Upgrades in Five Counties

This week, Gov. Beshear awarded more than $5.4 million to Hopkins, Johnson, Martin, Muhlenberg and Warren counties, including:

  • $2,765,765 to nine utilities and seven cities in Hopkins and Muhlenberg counties through the Better Kentucky Plan’s Cleaner Water Program;
  • $273,963 in Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding to the City of Nortonville (Hopkins County);
  • $300,000 of Community Development Block Grant funding to Johnson County to expand and upgrade the W.R. Castle Fire Station;
  • $28,144 in KYTC funding to Johnson County to resurface portions of Deboard Hollow Road;
  • $411,148 to the Martin County Water District through the Better Kentucky Plan’s Cleaner Water Program;
  • $1.6 million in TAP funding for the City of Bowling Green to rehabilitate the College Street Pedestrian Bridge and $25,000 from the Department for Local Government’s Recreational Trails Program for Warren County to add new features to Weldon Peete Park.

Gov. Beshear also joined local officials in Johnson County this week to announce the addition of a new Build-Ready site at Hager Hill Industrial Park, positioning the location to attract new business to the region.

Team Kentucky All-Stars
Thursday Gov. Beshear announced two groups of Team Kentucky All-Stars: Kentucky students who competed in the Kentucky Association for Academic Competition’s Governor’s Cup and Kentucky Girl Scouts who visited the Capitol this week.

“The students who competed in the Governor’s Cup have worked hard and sacrificed so much throughout this pandemic, all while staying dedicated to their goals. I’m really proud of them,” Gov. Beshear said. “I want to also give a shout out to KAAC Executive Director John Bennett who is retiring this summer after 30 years of service to this organization – and to the students of Kentucky.”

The Governor signed a proclamation this week recognizing Girl Scout Day in the commonwealth and celebrating 110 years of Girl Scouts.

“These girls came together in Frankfort to advocate for the causes they believe in. They are gaining the skills they need to follow their dreams, starting right now,” Gov. Beshear said. “And yes, there is still time to buy cookies. Look for a booth near you soon!”

Categories: Coronavirus Updates, Featured, Local News, News, State News