Frankfort, Q. (NWN) — While the new Omicron version gets attention, a familiar adversary is again driving up coronavirus cases in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.
The governor said the delta variant – which has caused significant damage in recent months – is responsible for the new upsurge in COVID-19 cases. Kentucky on Wednesday passed 3,000 new virus cases for the first time since early October, he said.
“We are seeing a rise in cases,” Beshear said at a news conference. “Now I hope it is temporary. Or maybe we will be on a very large plateau, where there are fluctuations.”
The latest surge in cases means more patients are coming to long-crisis hospitals. Virus-related hospitalizations in Kentucky have increased by about 11% over the past week, he said.
The Democratic governor again pushed unaffiliated Kentuckians to take the COVID-19 vaccine and to get their booster shots if they are eligible for vaccination. He said that people should wear masks in public places indoors to combat the spread of the virus.
Beshear said that statewide, 60% of all Kentuckians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while about 13% have received a booster shot.
He added that reduced immunity among immunizations is a likely factor in the new increase in virus cases.
He said booster shots are being overtaken by new vaccines on a daily basis in the state.
From March 1 to December 1 of this year, more than 80% of all COVID-19 cases and virus-related hospitalizations and deaths in Kentucky were partially vaccinated or unvaccinated.
As for Omicron, the governor has said the new version is a cause for concern, but not a cause for panic.
“Remember, breathe,” the governor said on Thursday. “We don’t know if it will get worse. We will have the information. And we have more tools than ever before.”
But the new version shows that the coronavirus “is not done with us,” he said.
“We can’t be done with it,” he said. “But we can win and we can protect each other.”
The Omicron variant has not been detected in Kentucky. Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said he is working with local health departments and laboratories to identify any suspected cases as quickly as possible.
“People should expect that we will have (Omicron) cases,” Beshear said.
Reflecting how little is known about Omicron, the governor said: “We don’t necessarily know that it will be harsher than Delta, which has been harsher indeed.”
The US recorded its first known Omicron infection on Wednesday, in a fully vaccinated man who returned from South Africa to California, where the first type was identified. A second US case was confirmed in Minnesota on Thursday, involving a vaccinated man who was in New York City.
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