Omicron variant causes COVID test positivity rate to skyrocket in Kentucky, governor says

Published 9:12 pm Monday, January 3, 2022

Kentucky reported almost 30,000 new COVID-19 cases last week, nearly twice the previous week’s total as the omicron variant spurs a record test positivity rate, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.

“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,” Beshear said at a news conference.

Kentucky reached a new daily record for COVID-19 cases, with 6,441 reported on Dec. 30, the governor said. The previous high was 5,742 cases on Jan. 6, 2021, the governor’s office said.

The statewide test positivity rate has soared to 20.7%, he said.

New virus cases are likely to continue escalating statewide, since some reports haven’t yet come in because of the long holiday weekend, the governor said.

“We went from being in a relative plateau to the second highest week of reported cases since the start of the pandemic, surpassed only by the week of Aug. 30 when the delta variant was hitting us at its peak,” Beshear said.

The Democratic governor stressed the need for people to self-isolate once they’re infected to try to prevent an even more dramatic spread of the virus.

“If you have omicron and you don’t isolate, you will infect a ton of people,” he said. “And yes, it appears to be less severe, though with the number of cases, you’re going to see hospitalizations and the rest are going up.”

People who become infected also need to alert those who were in close contact with them, he said.

“This thing spreads so fast, you need to pick up the phone and call everybody you have been around recently,” the governor said. “This is happening to a ton of people. So it doesn’t need to be any guilt.”

Beshear and Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner, stressed that the state’s school districts need to require mask wearing in schools.

“I’m telling you, if you open a school this week and you’re not requiring masks, you’re going to infect the whole building in the first two weeks,” Stack said. “I mean, it’s going to happen that fast.”

“Measles is the most contagious known viral infection on the planet Earth for a very long time,” Stack added. “And the only comparison that we can make for omicron that seems even remotely apropos is that it’s like measles.”