State reports record days for new COVID cases, second highest week ever
Positivity rate soars above 20%; nine tornadoes now on New Year's Day
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – No doubt about it now, Kentucky is in the worst COVID surge of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, nine tornadoes now have been confirmed in the state on New Year’s Day.
In addition, the Merck antiviral pill is available in Kentucky for the first time Monday although only a limited number of doses have been allocated to the state.
The number of COVID cases confirmed last week is second only to the case numbers during a week back in August when the delta variant was at its peak, Gov. Andy beshear said Monday, encouraging schools, businesses and individuals to voluntarily return to wearing masks as hospitalizations and ICU cases also begin to climb rapidly.
In his weekly update (click here), Beshear reeled off a string of record numbers (click here), including 6,441 new cases on Dec. 30, 5,748 on Dec. 31, 2,359 on Jan. 1, 2,767 on Jan. 2 and 4,111 on Jan. 3. Those numbers came on top of 5,530 new cases last Wednesday, and last Tuesday’s 4,297.
Of Monday’s new cases, 824 were in people 18 and under.
The positivity rate in Monday’s rate was far higher than it’s ever been, soaring to 20.72%. By comparison, the positivity rate last Monday was 11.8% and the previous Monday it was 9.2%.
“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.”
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.”
Monday’s report also included 15 deaths, pushing the number of residents lost to COVID-related causes to 12,234.
The state has logged 879,057 cases of COVID since March 2020.
Hospitalizations are reflecting the spike in cases with 1,579 reported Monday, up from 1,434 Wednesday, 1,330 Tuesday, 1,225 last Monday, 1,183 last Sunday, and 1,200 last Saturday. It was just 1,206 two Mondays ago.
The same goes for ICU numbers with 373 reported Monday, up from 369 reported last Wednesday, 342 Tuesday, 348 last Monday and 325 on Monday two weeks ago.
The number of those on a ventilator has held reasonably steady with 205 reported Monday, 220 reported last Wednesday, 203 last Tuesday, 205 last Monday. Two Mondays ago, the number was at 176.
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. Today, 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.
Dr. Stack said the Merck antiviral pill is available in Kentucky for the first time Monday. Only 3,300 treatment courses were allocated to Kentucky, so supplies are very limited. There will be a new page on the kycovid19.ky.gov website today 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.
Request to Extend Tornado Recovery Federal Cost-Share
Today, Gov. Beshear asked President Joe Biden to extend the 100% federal cost share to 90 days, instead of 30 days, for the clean-up of the massive damage efforts required to restore Western Kentucky communities impacted by the deadly tornadoes that killed 77 Kentuckians, including 14 children.
“This is an unprecedented request for an unprecedented disaster,” said Gov. Beshear. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated the total amount of debris to be removed in all counties to be in excess of 4.7 million cubic yards. To date it is estimated that only 3% of the debris has been removed in all counties, and those counties need help lightening the financial burden after many have faced multiple natural disasters over the past year.”
New Year’s Day Tornadoes
Kentucky Emergency Management is reporting nine tornadoes from New Year’s Day have been confirmed, including:
- Christian County, EF-2
- Warren County, EF-0
- Logan and Todd counties, EF-0
- Hart County, EF-0
- Barren County, EF-1
- Taylor County, EF-1
- Marion County, EF-1
- Madison County, EF-1
- Estill County, EF-0
Additional Disaster SNAP Benefits Approved for Kentucky Counties Following Historic Storms, Tornadoes
Gov. Beshear announced last week that Disaster SNAP, or D-SNAP, benefits have been approved for Kentuckians who live or work in 14 counties impacted by the Dec. 10-11 tornadic storms, and two other counties are on standby to be added in the near future. Applications open Jan. 5. If you would not ordinarily qualify for SNAP, you may qualify for D-SNAP if you had a disaster-related expense. To learn more, see the full release.
Disaster Unemployment Insurance Update
Gov. Beshear signed an Executive Order on Dec. 28, 2021 to temporarily suspend the work search requirement and the waiting week period for unemployment insurance (UI) and Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) claimants impacted by the severe weather on Dec. 10, 2021.
“I am happy to report that the United States Department of Labor approved the request. This means UI claimants who are unemployed due to the severe weather that work or live in the 16 counties that are included in the FEMA major disaster declaration will not have to search for work or wait for benefits for their first eligible week. This will include claims starting on Dec. 10 and only in the 16 counties that are under the disaster declaration.”
The updated locations for this week’s unemployment insurance DUA clinics are:
- 262 Scottsville Road, Bowling Green, KY
- 351 Charles Drive, Mayfield, KY
They will be open Tuesday through Thursday, Jan. 4-6 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time.
It is not necessary to attend an in-person session if you can do everything online. These sessions are to assist individuals in filling out the application or answering questions. Individuals who became unemployed or those who are self-employed and had work interrupted in the sixteen Kentucky counties as a direct result of the severe storms on Dec. 10, 2021, are eligible to apply for DUA benefits through the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance. The deadline to apply for assistance in Barren and Marion counties is Jan. 27, 2022. For updated information on DUA, go to kcc.ky.gov.