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Kentucky’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are dropping, but facilities are still strained

Beshear COVID briefing
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Kentucky continues to see a drop in new COVID-19 cases and positivity rates as the omicron variant appears to loosen its hold on the region. 

At a news conference Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear reported 46,639 new cases over the past week, down from more than 74,000 the week before. 

The positivity rate has dropped to 23.5%, down from over 33%. Beshear said some of the drop could be due to testing site closures last week because of the ice storm. And while he’s happy to see a drop in cases, he said the numbers are still far too high. 

“We are really excited about the trajectory of cases, but remember this is the fifth highest week in our entire COVID experience,” he said. “So while we are moving in the right direction, there is still a whole lot of virus out there.”

Hospitalizations are dropping too, after nearly reaching the peak seen with the delta surge in fall. 

The governor reported that around 2,100 residents are currently hospitalized with the virus – down 11% from the previous week. 

Beshear said at least one-third of hospitals in the state are still seeing critical staffing shortages, and many others are likely affected. 

“Things are moving in the right direction,” he said. “We don’t hear as many alarms as we did last time because it does appear to be a more temporary surge that is beginning to subside.”

Norton Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Hester said they’ve seen the drop too. On Monday, there were 196 people hospitalized with COVID at Norton, with about 40% being “incidental finds” – people who were hospitalized for other reasons but who tested positive for the virus. 

This nearly 200 cases is down from the record of 313 Norton saw Jan. 20. Outpatient testing demand is also down, as is the number of staff out due to COVID. 

“I’m very hopeful,” Hester said. “And if we’ve learned anything, it’s that we take advantage of the little valleys that we have in terms of not knowing what’s going to come next and kind of get a respite there and regroup.”

He said he knows staff are fatigued – not just from taking care of sick patients but the way the pandemic has affected them outside of work as well. 

He praised their dedication and hard work. 

“It’s amazing,” Hester said. “We’ve been going at this now almost two years, and I’m just so proud of our staff in terms of their resilience and the continued desire just to come in and take care of patients.”

Approximately 400 Kentucky National Guard members are still assisting Kentucky hospitals in the greatest need. 

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