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Kentucky officials say omicron could be nearing its peak

Gov. Andy Beshear at podium
Gov. Andy Beshear, file photo

Kentucky officials continue to report record high COVID-19 cases, but say the peak – of at least the omicron variant – is in sight. 

At a news conference Monday, Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s health commissioner, reported more than 83,000 new cases from last week. 

There were more than 29,000 between Saturday and Monday alone, with a positivity rate hovering around 33%. There have been 76 deaths reported in the past three days. 

But Stack said that based on numbers coming from places like New York, Rhode Island and the United Kingdom, Kentucky could see its peak as early as this week. Those areas saw about three weeks between the start of the omicron surge and a peak. 

“I know this has been a very, very long journey. We’re not finished yet unfortunately, but pandemics do end, and we’ve got to keep up our hope,” Stack said. 

“I really do think 2022 is going to look a lot better, and we’re going to get to graduations in the summertime and it’s going to be a lot better and we’re going to be back to a lot of our activities in much the way we used to enjoy them.” 

He said it will still take time for nursing homes and hospitals to recover and that even as the decline starts, the strain on medical facilities will continue for at least a month. 

Stack said current hospitalizations are nearing the highest point of the delta strain seen in fall, but with lower percentages of people being admitted to the ICU or needing ventilators. 

He said even if those critical care beds and breathing machines are available, they still need hospital staff who have the skills to operate them.. 

As of Monday, the state reported about a third of hospitals in Kentucky were facing critical staffing shortages.

“We hope that we are cresting, that we are near the peak of what we’ll see,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “Remember even if that’s the case, it’s going to take us at least a couple of weeks if not three to get to a much safer place. But we ought to be able to see light at the end of this tunnel at least and push on through it.”

Beshear took part in the weekly COVID briefing from the governor’s mansion. He is quarantining after his son, who is fully vaccinated and recently boosted, tested positive for COVID. Beshear said he has tested negative, and that his son is mostly asymptomatic and doing well.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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