Ky. reports highest week ever for new COVID-19 cases  

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky reported 52,603 new COVID-19 cases last week, the highest weekly total ever by nearly 22,000 cases. The second highest week for new cases was the week ending Sept. 5, 2021, when 30,680 cases were reported.

The Governor also reported the state’s highest ever test positivity rate Monday, 26.33%.

“We are now in a nearly vertical spike the likes of which dwarf all prior escalations,” said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH). “In just two weeks, Kentucky has gone from roughly half our delta variant surge peak to more than double our delta variant surge peak. At this point, essentially all COVID-19 in Kentucky is likely to be the omicron variant.”

While the Tri-County is seeing lower incidence rates than half the state, Whitley, Knox and Laurel counties are all still in the red zone and are seeing increases in cases despite winter weather that closed several doctor's offices and urgent care centers at the end of last week.

Whitley County had a 101.6 incidence rate on Monday while Knox County was at 64.7 and Laurel County was at 50, according to the KDPH. All three were lower than the state's overall incidence rate of 160.74. The incidence rate is the average daily COVID case number per 100,000 population based on the previous seven days.

Whitley County Health Department had 134 new cases reported since Thursday with 263 cases active. Whitley County has 42.6% fully vaccinated.

Laurel County Health Department said in its weekly reporting on Monday that during the week of Jan. 1-7, 525 new cases were reported, 8 of which were hospitalized at the time of reporting.

Knox County Health Department reported Monday 58 new cases from Friday through Monday, with 179 active cases and two hospitalized.

In Monday's state press conference hosted by the governor, Dr. Stack also said K-12 schools guidance is changing in light of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updating its K-12 isolation and quarantine guidance last week.

Dr. Stack said, “Most importantly, universal masking is essential with omicron. If universal masking is not required in K-12 schools, omicron will spread rapidly and result in rapid and massive student and staff absences to due illness.”

If a school requires universal masking, then it:

- Does not have to do contact tracing within the school population if a positive person is identified in the school population, and

- Does not have to quarantine any of the students or staff in the school population due to finding a positive person in the school setting.

In schools that do not require universal masking, the schools are urged to maintain robust contact tracing when positive persons are identified in the school setting and to quarantine all persons not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccination if exposed in the school setting.

Regardless of a school’s masking requirements, individuals who test positive should isolate for at least five days.

Individuals who are not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccination and who are exposed to COVID-19 at home or outside school should quarantine for at least five days unless participating in a test-to-stay modified quarantine program as described by KDPH.

“Omicron continues to burn through the commonwealth, growing at levels we have never seen before. Omicron is significantly more contagious than even the delta variant,” said Gov. Beshear. “If it spreads at the rate we are seeing, it is certainly going to fill up our hospitals.”

The Governor said he is deploying 445 Kentucky National Guard members to 30 health care facilities to provide support, beginning this week.

Omicron appears to cause less severe illness, particularly among people who are vaccinated. Dr. Stack provided several tips to help Kentuckians during the surge:

- If you are sick, stay home until you feel better.

- Get vaccinated or boosted, if eligible. Boosters dramatically bolster your protection against severe disease and death.

- Wear a well-fitting mask at all times when indoors in public places such school, work, stores, etc.

- If you think you have COVID-19 and/or have had a high-risk exposure and you are able, get tested.

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