Gov. Beshear Says Fast-Spreading COVID-19 Omicron Variant Confirmed in Multiple Counties, Urges Masking in Schools and Workplaces
Governor also provides updates on Western Kentucky storm response
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 18, 2021) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear urged rigorous masking in schools and workplace settings after testing confirmed the fast-spreading COVID-19 omicron variant 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.”
The Governor said Gravity Diagnostics reported positive omicron tests Friday to the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH). The positive tests were from patients in Kenton, Campbell and Fayette counties.
In addition, wastewater testing by the University of Louisville and the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness detected the presence of the omicron variant in Jefferson County.
Dr. Steven Stack, commission of the KDPH, said: “The omicron variant of COVID-19 is probably one of the most transmissible or contagious infections we’ve had in the last century at least. To put this into perspective, one person who gets influenza may infect one to two people. The delta variant really escalated COVID’s transmissibility, and one person with the delta variant might infect up to five other people under the right situations. Omicron now, it may be that one person with omicron may infect up to 18 or 20 other people.”
Key facts about the omicron variant:
- It is much more transmissible than other variants.
- 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 how Kentucky will fare.
- Recent data suggests monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective a treatment against the omicron variant.
The Governor noted that vaccinations and boosters are still the best lines of defense.
Key points on vaccines:
- 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.