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COVID-19: State Sees Highest Single-Day Case Count, Record Positivity Rate

Before 2021 came to a close, Kentucky recorded its highest-ever number of positive COVID-19 cases in a single day.

That day was Thursday, December 30 when the state saw 6,441 new cases, topping the previous single day record of 5,742 recorded on January 6, 2021.

Meanwhile, the state's positivity rate is 20.72%, also its highest ever. In a news conference on Monday, Governor Andy Beshear blamed the highly transmissible omicron variant of COVID-19 for the surge in cases.

“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 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 January 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.”

St. Elizabeth Healthcare said on Monday that it is pausing elective, non-emergency surgeries that would require admissions to the hospital because of the growing number of patients with COVID.

From Thursday through Monday, there were 2,562 new positive COVID-19 cases across five Northern Kentucky counties: 991 in Kenton, 860 in Boone, 597 in Campbell, 69 in Grant, and 45 in Pendleton.

Across the state during that span of time, 116 people died from COVID-19.

There are currently 1,579 people hospitalized with COVID across Kentucky, including 373 in intensive care units, and 205 on ventilators.

The overwhelming majority of serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths are among unvaccinated people in Kentucky, Dr. Stack said. Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines remain highly effective for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted (a third dose), if eligible, he said.

On Monday, 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.

Dr. Stack said also that 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 Monday.

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 on Monday. Only 3,300 treatment courses were allocated to Kentucky, so supplies are very limited.

“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.

More than 2.7 million people in Kentucky have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

-Staff report

Photo via the Office of Governor Andy Beshear