Gov. Andy Beshear has announced he will pause his regular COVID-19 briefings for the first time since summer, as cases and hospitalizations continue to drop. 

The state saw around 9,500 new cases last week, compared with around 12,000 the week before. The statewide positivity rate has dropped to 4.17% – down from just over 6% reported last week. 

More than a third of Kentucky counties, including Jefferson, are now in the green – or the lowest level of COVID spread on the state map. 

Some metrics are not dropping as quickly. Beshear reported that around 280 Kentucky residents died from COVID over the past week, which is close to the previous week’s number. 

“While we still have some struggles, while this pandemic is still with us, things continue to move in the right direction and they are continuing to move at a regular pace,” Beshear said. 

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for green counties include getting vaccinated and staying home if sick. The CDC says residents in green counties can decide whether to wear masks, although it recommends targeted use in schools or other indoor settings, if there has been a recent exposure in the institution.  

COVID hospitalizations are dwindling, too. 

Baptist Health Louisville reported 14 COVID patients as of Monday, with one in the ICU. That’s compared with a peak of 139 COVID patients Jan. 18 – of the hospital’s roughly 500 beds. 

Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany reported eight COVID patients Monday, with one in the ICU. That facility’s peak was 73 in January. 

Baptist Health Louisville Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chuck Anderson said that the surges over the past two years – including the omicron wave that caused some staff shortages – has been “difficult on everybody.”

But now that cases are falling quickly and the weather is improving, “enthusiasm is back up,” he said. 

“It seems like there is light at the end of the tunnel, again.”

Other area hospitals reported lower COVID-19 inpatient stays Monday: 27 across Norton Healthcare, including pediatrics, compared with a high of 313 in January; 21 patients across the University of Louisville system and seven at Clark Memorial Health in Jeffersonville. 

Beshear said the current downward trend is a good sign, but it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. 

“We were moving to a better place when delta was receding, and then omicron hit. So we’ve got to be humble in that we are not finally through the pandemic yet but we hope we are well on our way.”

As of last week, there were still close to 400 Kentucky National Guard members helping with the COVID response across the state. Beshear said those remaining will be called off by Tuesday. 

COVID statistics will still be updated weekly at the Kentucky Department for Public Health website. 

 

Aprile Rickert is WFPL's health reporter.