FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear says the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has brought the state to its worst escalation of reported cases since the start of the pandemic.

The governor says the number of new cases reported last week, 29,955 new cases, is twice the number of new cases reported the week prior. He adds the state has never seen an escalation as large as the one they are seeing right now with Omicron. The total is also the second-highest week of new cases reported since the start of the pandemic, following only the week of Aug. 30, when the Delta variant was at its peak.

The state is also reporting its highest positivity rate in the pandemic at 20.72%, with 114 of Kentucky’s 120 counties in red on the state’s current incidence rate map.

Beshear is urging those who do test positive for the virus to self-isolate, especially as the Omicron variant is more transmissible, reach out to close contacts and let them know they need to get tested and contact their doctor or health department. He also adds that he believes that many people who have been exposed or test positive from an at-home kit are either not getting tested or not contacting health officials, meaning the number of cases could be even higher than reported.

“If you have Omicron and you don’t isolate, you will infect a ton of people. 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,” Beshear said. “But if you can infect a ton of people, more people than ever before in any variant, the odds that you infect someone who is unvaccinated or has preexisting conditions is higher given the total number of people you may infect. So, you have an absolute duty if you test positive to follow the procedures to self-isolate otherwise you could be causing severe harm to the people around you.”

The governor says by percentage, he expects fewer hospitalizations for Omicron but says if the number of cases continues to escalate, that would still be a large number of hospitalizations connected to the virus.

As of today, Jan. 3, the Kentucky Department for Public Health is reporting the following new cases and deaths since its last update:

4:09 new cases/deaths

  • Thursday, Dec. 30: 6,441 new cases and 27 additional deaths
  • Friday, Dec. 31: 5,748 new cases and 28 additional deaths
  • Saturday, Jan. 1: 4,359 new cases and 26 additional deaths
  • Sunday, Jan. 2: 2,767 new cases and 24 additional deaths
  • Monday, Jan. 3: 4,111 news case and 15 additional deaths

The reports bring the state to a total of 879,057 cases and 12,234 deaths since the pandemic began. As of Monday, Jan. 3, health officials say a total of 1,579 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 with 373 of those patients in the ICU and 205 on ventilators.

During the briefing, Dr. Steven Stack, Commissioner for the Kentucky Department for Public Health, shared updated COVID-19 isolation guidance from the CDC.

For those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and do have symptoms, the guidance says the individual should isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms. If the symptoms fully resolve, then the isolation period can be shortened and end after the person has not had symptoms for five days. The individual must still wear a mask for 10 full days since the start of their symptoms. If the person cannot wear a mask properly and consistently, they should not shorten their isolation period, according to the guidance.

Those who have tested positive and have not had symptoms must isolate for five days from the date of their COVID-19 test and must wear a well-fitted mask for five additional days. If the individual is not able to wear a mask properly or consistently, they should extend their isolation period to 10 days, the guidance says.

For those that are not fully vaccinated or are eligible for a booster but have not yet received it and have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, the individual should quarantine for 10 days from their last exposure. The guidance says that period may be shortened to five days if the person has no symptoms and tests negative for the virus on their fifth day from exposure. The individual must also wear a face mask for 10 days. If symptoms do develop, they should stay home and get a COVID-19 test.

The guidance says those who have their booster or are fully vaccinated but not yet eligible for a booster do not need to quarantine if they come into close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 but must wear a mask for 10 days from their exposure. They should also get a test on the fifth day after they are exposed. If symptoms do develop, they should stay home and get a COVID-19 test.

Beshear says getting a booster is critical to preventing the spread of the Omicron variant, especially with waning immunity from the initial shots. According to the governor, 10,383 Kentuckians received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine this weekend and 25,488 received a booster shot.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health says a total of 2,781,123 Kentuckians have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This equals 62% of the state’s total population and 66% of Kentuckians ages 5 and older.

By demographic, the state says vaccination rates are:

  • 75+ years: 92%
  • 65-74 years: 96%
  • 50-64 years: 80%
  • 40-49 years: 70%
  • 25-39 years: 60%
  • 18-24 years: 53%
  • 16-17 years: 49%
  • 12-15 years: 45%
  • 5-11 years 17%