New coronavirus variant surfaces in Eastern Kentucky nursing home

FRANKFORT, Ky. — As the coronavirus continues to evolve, new variants have emerged, most notably in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

Now, there appears to be a new Eastern Kentucky variant.

During his briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the discovery of the new strain in an Eastern Kentucky nursing home.

Because it is still early, the governor declined to name the facility or where it is located. However, he said that the new variant had infected 27 residents and 14 staff members at the nursing home — both vaccinated and non-vaccinated alike.

The good news for those who were vaccinated is that their symptoms were less severe, if they developed symptoms at all. Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said only 30 percent of the vaccinated patients developed symptoms, compared to 84 percent of the non-vaccinated patients.

“There are a few important observations to take from this,” Dr. Stack said. “One, increased vaccination uptake among all staff and all visitors to nursing homes, and in fact people visiting any vulnerable population, is urgently needed to reduce the risk of introducing COVID-19 into these vulnerable populations.

“Number two, vaccination appears to be doing exactly what we hoped it would — protecting people from severe illness, and hopefully protecting them from death, for those who have become sick.”

Looking at the latest numbers, there were 819 new cases reported on Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 417,000.

Twenty-four more Kentuckians have died, raising the death toll to 5,029.

There are 459 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 110 in intensive care and 59 on ventilators.

The state’s positivity rate is now 3.87 percent.