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Kentucky sees highest positivity rate of pandemic amid omicron surge

Models suggest omicron could burn itself out by next month, but that still leaves a tough January.
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 6:06 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - One in five tests for COVID-19 are coming back positive in Kentucky, according to data released Monday by the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

The commonwealth’s 20.72 percent positivity rate comes amid a surge of cases due to the omicron variant.

Last week’s tally of 29,955 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 is second only to the first week of September, when 30,680 cases, most being the delta variant, were reported.

See charts showing Kentucky cases and hospitalizations below.

“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. Andy Beshear.

Kentucky’s hospitalization numbers are rising as well, though as has been true throughout the pandemic, they lag the current case spike.

“[B]ut 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,” said KDPH Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack.

KDPH has revised its guidance for the general public in light of the changes presented by the CDC last week allowing for shortened isolation and quarantine under certain circumstances.

MORE: Tri-State hospitals scale back elective surgeries | Cincinnati getting mass testing site supported by National Guard

The omicron variant is generally considered to be more contagious than the delta variant while causing fewer hospitalizations, especially among vaccinated people.

It is, in other words, a numbers game. If omicron is twice as transmissible as delta but half as severe, January’s hospitalization surge will be just as serious as last September’s.

As Beshear explained last week: “If you’re freshly vaccinated, you’re pretty well protected [against omicron.] And if you’re fully vaccinated and boosted, again, it looks like you’re in pretty good shape.”

He continued: “It may be that you still contract the omicron variant if you’re vaccinated, but [...] it’s unlikely that you will get sick. If you’re unvaccinated, it looks like it can hit you—and hit you pretty hard.”

Beshear also noted that infection of those with preexisting conditions is more likely than before considering omicron’s transmissibility.

Models suggest omicron could out-compete delta in the US and burn itself out fairly quickly, perhaps in as little as a month.

Nevertheless, Kentucky and the US at large figure to be in for a tough January.

Weekly COVID cases in Kentucky
Weekly COVID cases in Kentucky(Kentucky Department of Public Health)
COVID hospitalizations in Kentucky
COVID hospitalizations in Kentucky(Kentucky Department of Public Health)

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