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State Shatters Weekly COVID Case Count; Covington Testing Site Hopes to Ease Traffic

There were more than 52,000 positive COVID-19 cases reported in Kentucky last week, the highest weekly total by nearly 22,000 (set on September 5).

Governor Andy Beshear also reported Monday that the state has its highest-ever positivity rate at 26.33%.

He cited the omicron variant of the virus as leading the surge, creating more cases than its predecessor, delta.

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

Beshear said that he is deploying more than 400 National Guard members to thirty health care facilities around the state this week to provide support.

“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.”

Dr. Stack also encouraged universal masking in schools.

“Most importantly, universal masking is essential with omicron," Stack said. "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.”

In Northern Kentucky, local schools have closed due to COVID-19 cases and quarantines impacting students and staff.

Friday through Monday, there were more than 3,700 positive COVID-19 cases across five Northern Kentucky counties, including 1,390 in Kenton, 1,209 in Boone, 979 in Campbell, 119 in Grant, and 76 in Pendleton.

There were 106 deaths related to COVID-19 across the state over the past four days.

There are currently 1,873 people hospitalized across the state due to COVID-19, including 452 in intensive care units, and 238 on ventilators.

Demand for COVID testing is high, and at local test sites, including in Covington, Ft. Mitchell, and Florence, waits have been long, and lines of cars have spilled into street traffic.

The City of Covington and Gravity Diagnostics announced Monday a new entrance to its downtown testing site, incorporating a new traffic pattern closing a city block and using the entire former IRS campus.

The new entrance is on RiverCenter Boulevard near the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. The street that is closed is one block of Johnson Street between Third and Fourth streets and the new traffic pattern involves stacking cars in the separate IRS lot where the actual former paper processing facility sits.
 
“The new route was created to help alleviate some of the traffic backups we’ve been experiencing during the current surge in testing,” said Covington Assistant Police Chief Brian Valenti. “In order to keep as many people off the surface streets as possible, we’ve begun to utilize the IRS lot as a queue.”
 
To navigate the testing site, follow the signs. But in general:
  • The new entrance begins on the north side of the primary IRS campus, on RiverCenter Boulevard, between Johnson Street and Madison Avenue.
  • The traffic cone pattern takes drivers through the IRS campus and across Johnson Street to the parking lot where the testing site is being conducted.
  • Once in the testing site, follow the queues.
  • The exit dumps drivers onto southbound Johnson Street near Fourth Street.
 
Valenti said the pattern is in place 24/7 for the foreseeable future.
 
“Even though testing is not being conducted all day, the 300 block of Johnson Street will remain closed until the demand for the testing lowers or until testing is no longer being conducted at that site,” Valenti said.
 
The Covington location (302 Fourth St.) is one of three testing sites that Gravity Diagnostics operates in Northern Kentucky. The others are in Florence at 2028 Florence Mall Road and in Fort Mitchell at 2332 Royal Dr.
 
Updated hours for the Covington testing site are 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., although those hours are subject to being tweaked due to backups and bad weather.
 
“Our staff has recently been staying until 3 p.m. or later to get all the samples completed,” said Emily Brucken, with Gravity Diagnostics corporate marketing. “There have been some instances where we will close our gates at 1:30 p.m. in order to get all the cars that are in the line tested.”
 
-Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photo via the City of Covington