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'As expected': First case of omicron variant confirmed in Kentucky, Gov. Beshear says in tweet

"As expected, Kentucky has confirmed its first case of the omicron variant.," Gov. Beshear said on Twitter.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Friday night, Governor Andy Beshear announced the state's first case of omicron. This comes a day after he said he felt pretty sure it was already here. 

Beshear confirmed the case in a tweet, saying, "As expected, Kentucky has confirmed its first case of the omicron variant."

The tweet went on to say, Governor Beshear and Dr. Stack will update the commonwealth at 1 p.m. EST Saturday, Dec. 18.

WHAS11 will stream the news briefing online and YouTube.

Thursday, Governor Andy Beshear warned Kentuckians of the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

“It is here. It is unquestionably here," Beshear said. 

The first official case has not yet been detected in Kentucky, though several dozen other states have reported cases just ahead of the holiday season.

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"They are supposed to be wonderful, hopeful, life-affirming holidays," Beshear said. "Last year they were deadly."

Jefferson County reported 2,161 new cases last week, at an incidence rate of 40.2 cases per 100,000 people. That lands the county in the red zone.

Jefferson County also reported 8 new deaths last week.

Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer at U of L Health, said hospitalizations for COVID in the hospital system have doubled in the last month. On November 15th, they had 39 COVID patients and Thursday morning, they have 84. 

He expects a surge in the weeks to come, but said its coming slower than the last. 

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"It's going to continue at a more prolonged rate," he said. "So while it may take us a little longer to get to the numbers we were seeing at the peak, we will get there."

Smith said the percentage of hospitalized patients who are vaccinated has also risen.

Smith said in August 3-4% of hospitalized patients had gotten the vaccine, and now around 10% of hospitalized patients are also vaccinated.

Smith said that could be a sign of waning immunity, with patients six to eight months out from their initial vaccination, or of overall rising spread.  

“If I’m bumping into a large ball versus a small ball which is more likely to hit me," he said as an example.

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"Try to protect those that are most vulnerable," Smith said. "There is a lot of COVID infection coming around and even if you're vaccinated you can spread to disease."

Ahead of the holidays, officials recommend limiting gatherings, continuing to wear a mask and getting a 3rd booster dose of the vaccine. 

"I believe the largest single factor in what type of surge we are going to see over the holidays and into the beginning of the year is how many people get their booster," Governor Beshear said. 

Beshear said the biggest difference between December 2020 and now is the rollout of the vaccine. He said last year, very few people were vaccinated at the holidays, but this year, almost everyone can be. 

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