Governor Andy Beshear discusses the omicron variant, deadly storms

Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky (WEHT) – On December 18, Governor Andy Beshear discussed COVID-19 as well as the December 10 storms and tornadoes.

Gov. Beshear urged masking in schools and workplace settings after receiving confirmation that the fast-spreading COVID-19 omicron variant has been sighted in multiple Kentucky counties. “This thing is going to spread so fast that any school that is not doing mandatory masking, any business that is not having their folks wear masks could see entire schools, entire shifts get infected very, very quickly,” Gov. Beshear said. “Folks I’m telling you: If we don’t make the decision to put back on that mask in these situations, it’s going disrupt everything we’ve worked so hard to get back up and going.”

Gravity Diagnostics reported positive omicron tests Friday to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, also known as KDPH. The positive tests were from patients in Kenton, Campbell and Fayette counties. Wastewater testing by the University of Louisville and the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness has also detected the presence of the omicron variant in Jefferson County.

Some things to know about the omicron variant are:

  • It is much more transmissible than other variants. As many as 20 people could catch it from one person, according to Dr. Steven Stack, commission of the KDPH.
  • It appears to take a much smaller amount of omicron to produce spread.
  • So far, omicron appears to cause mostly mild disease. South Africa and the United Kingdom, where there already is significant spread, have not reported severe rises in hospitalizations. However, it is too soon to tell.
  • Recent data suggests monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective a treatment against the omicron variant.

With that in mind, it should be mentioned that vaccinations and boosters are still the best lines of defense. Here’s why:

  • Three doses of the mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna appear to provide very good protection against severe COVID disease and death.
  • Mild breakthrough cases appear more common with the omicron variant than delta variant.
  • Currently, 62% of Kentuckians are fully vaccinated. Every eligible person 5 and older should get vaccinated as soon as possible. Those who have recovered from COVID also should be vaccinated.
  • Everyone 16 and older who is at least six months past receiving their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine should get a booster dose as soon as possible.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said the mRNA vaccines are preferred over the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those who previously had the J&J shot are encouraged to get a Pfizer or Moderna booster dose.

Coronavirus aside, Gov. Beshear gave updates on news related to December 10’s fatal storms. His updates included:

  • The death toll from the storms now stands at 78. Gov. Beshear noted a discrepancy between the toll he is reporting and the 75 deaths reported by Kentucky Emergency Management and the Kentucky Department for Public Health. He said difference is centered in Hopkins County and officials are working to resolve the issue.
  • There are no longer any people considered missing from the storm.
  • Gov. Beshear announced the state is adding 10% on top of the individual assistance for housing provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to qualifying storm survivors who were uninsured. The state funding will come from the Team Kentucky Fund. The Governor said the funds can assist with expenses over and above what the FEMA declaration covers by categories and that the funds cannot be used for the same expenses that FEMA is covering.
  • The Team Western Kentucky Relief Fund has received 105,370 donations pledging $19,777,726. To donate, click here.
  • Six additional counties have been declared a disaster on Dec. 16, 2021: Christian, Hart, Hickman, Logan, Lyon and Ohio counties have been added and are now eligible for additional federal assistance.  
  • Survivors may continue to apply for assistance by calling 800-621-3362, going to this website, or using the FEMA App.
  • Already, more than 7,770 registrations have been validated for processing. To date FEMA has approved around $1.67 million in individual assistance.
  • As of this morning, Kentucky State Parks are providing housing and food services for 636 displaced Kentuckians and 188 first responders.
  • The state is housing approximately 944 Kentuckians between the parks system and hotels.
  • More than 10,000 insurance claims related to the storms already have been filed.

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