Pandemic still setting records in Kentucky; more than 1 in 4 who get tested are positive; hospitals and schools are disrupted

Chart by The Washington Post, adapted by Kentucky Health News; to enlarge, click on it.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky’s coronavirus cases continued to skyrocket Tuesday, and the state’s positive-test rate hit yet another record and hospital numbers kept going up.

Kentucky reported 9,450 new cases Tuesday, the fourth most of the pandemic. The top three days were all last week, as were Nos. 5 and 6. Of today’s cases, 24.8%, more than 2,000, were in people 18 and younger.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 8,175, a new record that is 4.6% higher than Monday and 60% higher than it was a week ago.
The share of Kentuckians testing positive in the last seven days is 26.79%, another record, and that does not include any at-home test results.

“Folks, we’re seeing an impact in our hospitals, our schools and our communities. Get your vaccine and booster and mask up,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a Facebook post.

Kentucky hospitals are asking the public to stop using emergency rooms for Covid-19 testing, Deborah Yetter reports for the Louisville Courier Journal.

“We are running into a lot of problems with patients coming into the emergency department simply for testing,” Dr. Mark Spanier, medical director of the emergency department of Baptist Health Lexington, said Tuesday: “If you show up for routine testing, you’ll be delaying care of other patients.”
Kentucky hospitals reported 1,953 Covid-19 patients Tuesday, 80 more than Monday and one of the largest daily gains of the pandemic. Hospitalizations have gone up 47% in the last 14 days.
The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care and on mechanical ventilation both went down. The state reported 449 in intensive care, three fewer than Monday and 237 on mechanical ventilation, down one.
Nine of the state’s 10 hospital-readiness regions are using at least 80% of their intensive-care beds, with five over 90%. Northern Kentucky is highest at 100%.
The state’s seven-day infection rate is 169.27 daily cases per 100,000 residents. Eight counties have rates above 200 per 100,000 people, including Fayette, 264.6; Jefferson, 261.5; Campbell, 238; Oldham, 217.3; Shelby, 211.6; Boone, 208.6; Jessamine, 203.8; and Boyd, 201.2. That’s two more counties than Monday, and like then, all are in metropolitan areas.
The New York Times ranks Kentucky’s infection rate 30th among the states, a drop of 10 slots from Monday.
The state reported nine more Covid-19 deaths. The pandemic death toll in Kentucky is now 12,434.
In other pandemic news:
  • Covid-19 vaccinations in Kentucky are trending upward after a four-week decline. The seven-day average of doses given is 16,392, almost 50 percent higher than the 10,991 average recorded Jan. 5. That’s still well below the 21,726 average recorded Dec. 11, after which the decline began. Just over 58% of the eligible population, 5 and older, are vaccinated, and just under 38% of those have received a booster shot, which experts say is needed for immunity from the Omicron variant. Most shots being given now are boosters.
  • “Health departments are now asking people who have tested positive to notify others they may have exposed,” WKYT-TV reports, quoting Woodford County Health Director Cassie Prather: “You want to make sure that those who live in your household are notified, and also anyone that you were with 24 to 48 hours prior to you becoming symptomatic or testing positive.”
  • The state Department for Public Health says people who have been in close contact with someone who has Covid-19 and is not fully vaccinated should quarantine for 10 days. That may be shortened to five days if you have no symptoms and test negative on the fifth day.
  • In his Monday press conference on the state’s education budget, Beshear proposed adding $6.2 million a year for eight regional centers with staff to address the social, emotional and mental-health needs of students, which have been worsened by the pandemic. “We must do more to help our youngest Kentuckians heal, and deal with the adversity in their lives,” he said.
  • Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman played video clips from students, including Julia Eady of Rowan County Senior High School, who said, “My peers are struggling with mental-health needs and obstacles . . . being safe and healthy is a basic need.”
  • Jefferson County Public Schools went on remote instruction Tuesday after being closed Monday. The county has state’s second-highest coronavirus infection rate. It became impossible to safely staff schools, Supt. Marty Pollio told reporters Monday. Hundreds of staff members are out because of positive tests or quarantine, and about 600 requests for substitute teachers Thursday went unfilled, Olivia Krauth reports for the Louisville Courier Journal. JCPS is tentatively scheduled to reopen to in-person learning Tuesday.
  • Private insurance will pay for up to eight at-home Covid-19 tests per person per month starting Saturday, Jan. 15, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Over-the-counter test purchases will be covered in the commercial market without the need for a health-care provider’s order or individualized clinical assessment, and without any cost-sharing requirements such as deductibles, co-payments or coinsurance, prior authorization, or other medical management requirements.” Tests are reimbursable up to $12 per individual test. Click here for more information on how to get your at-home test for free.
  • Pope Francis suggested Monday that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus is “a moral obligation.” He spoke at an annual event in which he takes stock of the world and sets out the Vatican’s foreign policy goals for the year, NPR reports. Francis previously called vaccination an “act of love,” but on Monday, he said people have a responsibility to care for themselves “and this translates into respect for the health of those around us. Health care is a moral obligation.”
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