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Hospitals filling up with COVID-19 patients as virus surge continues 

FRANKFORT, Ky.  – A record number of Kentuckians are hospitalized as the delta variant continues to burn through the population, causing Governor Andy Beshear to seek federal assistance for the state’s overburdened healthcare system.

During a Monday press conference, the governor said 2,596 new cases were reported to the state public officials, nearly 27% of which were people 18 and younger.  This was the highest total for a Monday during the entire pandemic and makes it 543,031 total cases since the first one was reported on March 6, 2020.  He noted last week had the third-highest number of new cases overall.

The daily hospital census for Monday showed there were 1,893 Kentuckians hospitalized due to COVID.  Of them, 529 were in the ICU and 301 on a ventilator.  All three numbers are the highest in each category.  There were also 17 new deaths, making that total 7,558.

“Despite the challenges, our health care heroes are doing what they always do: providing the best, most compassionate care possible to Kentuckians in need,” said Beshear.  “But they need our help now, and the work they’ve been doing for us all deserves to be respected and supported in every way we can.”

He was also joined, through video hook-ups, with healthcare leaders around the state.

Dr. William Melahn, chief medical officer at St. Claire HealthCare in Morehead said, “For our inpatient census of COVID patients, we have doubled in one week. And our curve appears to be getting sharper.  We’ve made the very difficult decision to move to code yellow, which is our disaster plan.”

Melahn said there are two reasons to get vaccinated: “One is to protect you, and the other is to protect people around you.  Let me just point out a little bit of reality: If we had another disaster happen right now, even a small one, we don’t have any reserve left.  So, if we had a bus accident, an influenza outbreak or anything else, I’m not sure what we would do.”

Staffing shortages is an issue to over 20 facilities around the state, but there is more to it than that.

“We are going to overcome this, but it is going to take a monumental effort.  It doesn’t matter how many nurses, therapists, physicians, pharmacists or anything else we have, it is not going to be enough for this surge,” said Steve Haines, RN, BSH, RRT and nursing director of critical care services at Ephriam McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville. “Right now, this looks like there is no end. The only chance we have is vaccination.”

The situation is no different in the state’s largest city, Louisville.

“In the past three weeks, we have seen the number of COVID-19 patients in our health care organization quadruple,” said Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer at UofL Health. We are seeing younger patients that are sicker. They are filling up our hospital beds, backing up patients in the emergency department, and we are getting to the point where it us going to be hard to deliver emergency care to those who need it.  I urge everyone in Louisville and the Commonwealth, please, step up and get the vaccine for yourself, your families and the communities around you.”

As a result, Gov. Beshear said he is submitting a resource request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for additional health care professionals to help where Kentucky needs them most.

“We’ve requested eight teams that include eight registered nurses and two certified nursing assistants per team. We’ve also requested two EMS strike teams, which include personnel and trucks,” he said.  “Our hospitals need this support, and we will do what it takes to make it happen.  Until then, we need everyone to wear a mask indoors and get vaccinated.  We hope FEMA will approve this request quickly.”

If federal approval is received, medical teams will support St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Pikeville Medical Center, Saint Joseph London, The Medical Center at Bowling Green, and Baptist Health Hardin.

“In Kentucky, this means we’ll have our Kentucky Guardsmen continuing to help combat the surge we’re seeing due to the delta variant,” said Beshear.  Our Kentucky Guardsmen have been on mission since March 2020 to help our commonwealth combat COVID-19, and we’re appreciative of their continued support.”

A total of 119 Kentucky counties are now red zones, all but Robertson County.  The governor issued new red zone recommendations, which include:

• Increase vaccination efforts to reach unvaccinated persons.

• Require masking in government buildings.

• Encourage masking in public indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings for all persons > 2 years of age.

• Encourage physical distancing of at least six feet apart in public settings.

• Maximize usage of outdoor spaces for gatherings.

• Consider limiting in-person community gatherings and postponing large events.

• Encourage medically vulnerable persons to avoid large crowds.

• Engage community partners and stakeholders to implement a strong communication plan.