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Beshear: Hospitals could be overrun with COVID-19 patients

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Gov. Andy Beshear says a record surge of COVID-19 cases has renewed concerns that Kentucky’s hospitals could become overrun with virus patients. He says the omicron variant is fueling the new surge. The governor also reported significant coronavirus outbreaks in some of the state’s prisons. Beshear reported 9,836 new virus cases Thursday. It's the state’s highest one-day total since the pandemic began. He says the statewide test positivity rate has reached 23.67%. He warned that virus-related hospital admissions are starting to increase rapidly in Kentucky.

From the Office of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear:

Today, at 12:30 p.m. EST, Gov. Andy Beshear provided his Team Kentucky update and said due to inclement weather he closed all state office buildings as of 12 p.m. EST. Executive branch agencies will continue to provide services to the citizens of the commonwealth.

“The severe winter weather we’re seeing across Kentucky right now is both real and dangerous,” said Gov. Beshear. “The roads are already incredibly slick across most of the state and we are seeing ice and numerous accidents. We are urging Kentuckians to please not travel if you don’t have to today.”

Gov. Beshear updated Kentuckians on the winter storms moving across the commonwealth today, with snow expected to become moderate to heavy this afternoon. A Winter Weather Advisory has been issued in portions of Central Kentucky north of the Western Kentucky and Bluegrass Parkways, where 1 to 4 inches of snow can be expected. The highest amounts of snowfall, 4 to 8 inches, are expected to fall across Southcentral and Eastern Kentucky, roughly from Bowling Green to Richmond.

The Governor urged Kentuckians to avoid travel due to hazardous road conditions and reports of multiple accidents. District crews from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet have been pretreating roads this week, with crews out today responding to hazardous roadways. The cabinet asked for cooperation and partnership of the public, with four specific requests:

  • Limit travel to what’s necessary when snow and ice are on the roads;
  • Give snow plows and crew members plenty of room on the road; and
  • Ensure personal vehicles are winter ready, with the recommendation of keeping an emergency kit in vehicles.
  • Mask up to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect against the quarantine of plow crews essential to roadway treatment;

For more information on roadway conditions during the winter, visit SnowKy.Ky.gov.

COVID-19 Omicron Variant Update
The Governor also announced 9,836 new COVID-19 cases were reported today, the highest number of new daily cases since the pandemic began. The state also reported its highest ever daily test positivity rate, 23.67%.

“Nearly 1 in 4 people being tested are coming up positive,” the Governor said. “So this week we will surpass last week’s numbers for most cases in any week during the pandemic. Hospital admissions are also increasing, and they are starting to increase rapidly.”

Gov. Beshear said Kentucky continues to experience a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant, which state officials believe is the predominantly circulating variant in the commonwealth.

The Governor said although he is hopeful that we will not see a similar increase in ICU admissions and patients needing to be placed on a ventilator, there are still people who are getting very sick from the omicron variant and it is still placing a strain on our health care system. Most patients who are hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated or have not received their booster.

The Governor reported the Department of Corrections appear to be experiencing a COVID outbreak based on wastewater testing. The impacted facilities include Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex (EKCC), Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women (KCIW), Roederer Correctional Complex and Lee Adjustment Center. EKCC and KCIW are moving into lockdown to help curb the spread.

COVID-19 Case Information, Vaccinations Update
Number of people who have received at least one vaccine dose in Kentucky: 2,792,116

New Cases Today: 9,836
New Deaths: 35
Today’s Positivity Rate: 23.67%
Current Hospitalizations: 1,783
Current Intensive Care Admittances: 402
Currently on Ventilators: 227

The Governor said 62% of all Kentuckians have received at least their first dose, as well as 67% of Kentuckians ages 5 and older and 74% of all Kentucky adults. In addition, 890,081 Kentuckians have had a vaccination booster, about 20% of the total population.

The Governor also noted that on Jan. 5, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed youth 12 to 17 years old are recommended to receive a booster shot 5 months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series. At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for adolescents age 12 to 17 years old.

Tornado and Storm Recovery Efforts
The Governor also provided an update on New Year’s Day storms that impacted much of the commonwealth, reporting the National Weather Service has confirmed nine tornadoes affecting 10 Kentucky counties with wind speeds ranging from 80 to 115 mph. On Monday, Gov. Beshear visited Hopkinsville to assess the damage from the EF-2 tornado with local Mayor Wendell Lynch and Emergency Management Director Randy Graham.

“It is an absolute miracle that no lives were lost and there were no injuries in Hopkinsville,” said Gov. Beshear. “We were very blessed that people were prepared and aware the storm was coming.”

Several other communities were impacted by flash flooding, including Green, Barren, Taylor, Adair, Owsley, Breathitt and Casey counties. These areas had numerous road closures and water rescues. High water blocked all or parts of multiple roads in Floyd, Knott and Pike counties. Damage assessments are ongoing, and the state will continue to assist and respond to Kentucky families affected.

The same day he traveled to Hopkinsville, Gov. Beshear visited Mayfield and met with local leaders in Graves and Hopkins counties to discuss cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

“Our priority continues to remain helping our Western Kentucky families recover and rebuild by working with our local, state and federal partners to ensure access to programs, resources and benefits are available to those in need,” said Gov. Beshear.

Governor Delivers State of the Commonwealth Address
Last night, Gov. Beshear delivered his third State of the Commonwealth address, noting this year’s speech feels both the toughest – as the state faced the most deadly tornado outbreak, numerous natural disasters and a worldwide pandemic – and the most exciting, because of the state’s record-breaking job growth and economic investments. To learn more, see the full release. Click here to read the transcript of the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth address.

Kentucky County Unemployment Data
Unemployment rates fell in all 120 counties between November 2020 and November 2021, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. The comparable, unadjusted unemployment rate for the state was 3% for November 2021, and 3.9% for the nation. To learn more, see the full release.

Team Kentucky All-Stars
Today, Gov. Beshear honored Jack Brammer, Frankfort bureau chief for the Lexington Herald-Leader and a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, as a Team Kentucky All-Star, following his retirement on Dec. 30, 2021. Brammer reported for the Herald-Leader for 43 years, covering 10 Kentucky governors.

“Jack, thank you for more than 43 years in the Capitol providing quality journalism that is so critical to Kentuckians and our communities,” said Gov. Beshear. “I know the Capitol will miss Jack and so will we.”