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Kentucky posts third straight weekly decline in COVID cases

February 15, 2022 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — With COVID-19 cases continuing to decline, Kentucky could pull itself out of the most serious category for coronavirus incidence rates by mid-March, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday.

The state had 35,961 new virus cases reported last week, Beshear said. It was the third straight weekly caseload decline after a dramatic surge fueled by the omicron variant. But last week’s total still represented the state’s sixth-highest weekly case count of the pandemic, he said.

“Certainly the trajectory is exactly what we want to see — steadily if not quickly dropping,” the governor said at a news conference.

Kentucky’s test positivity rate, which had surpassed 33%, was down to 17.9%, he said.

If the trend continues, the Bluegrass State could emerge from the the red zone — indicating the highest level of community spread — and into the orange or even yellow zone by the middle of next month, Beshear said in his mostly upbeat report.

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A color-coded map has been used to track the state’s COVID-19 incidence rate during the pandemic.

The red zone is defined by 25 or more cases per 100,000 people. Kentucky has far exceeded that threshold during the most recent surge caused by the fast-spreading omicron variant. The orange zone is defined by at least 10 cases per 100,000 people. Yellow is the second safest zone.

The governor said that if virus cases and test positivity rates continue declining, his goal is to provide updated guidance for the state workforce by next month.

“Certainly if we are in that better place, the guidance will provide significant more flexibility,” he said.

The state’s Republican-led legislature last year dramatically limited the governor’s authority to impose measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Steven Stack, Kentucky’s public health commissioner, shared the governor’s confidence that by mid-March the state “should be in a much better place” in its fight against the pandemic.

But Stack offered cautionary words Monday about the ongoing potential threat as he continued urging people to get vaccinated and wear masks in public.

“It has surprised us and thrown curveballs multiple times over the last two years,” he said of the pandemic. “And it’s really ... imperative that we continue to take reasonable and responsible steps to try to minimize the risk that it gets worse. So that once we have these gains, we can keep the gains and go on with our lives much more like we used to know them.”

Meanwhile, the governor said that coronavirus-related deaths still remain significant in Kentucky.

The state reported at least 116 virus-related deaths in the past three days. The statewide virus-related death toll has surpassed 13,400 since the pandemic began.