Story at a glance
- Kentucky is seeing a surge of hospitalized COVID-19 patients as infections increase statewide.
- Health care workers say the patients being admitted are younger than previous waves.
- Gov. Andy Beshear extended the deployment of the state’s National Guard, which has been active since March 2020.
A record-breaking number of COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Kentucky as of Monday, prompting Gov. Andy Beshear (D) to extend the deployment of the state national guard at select hospitals beginning in September.
Kentucky is dealing with rising case numbers fueled by the delta variant, reporting more than 2,500 new cases on Monday and 1,893 hospitalizations. Nearly two-thirds of hospital beds are occupied statewide, and similarly high numbers of patients are also placed on hospital ventilators.
“It’s a nightmare to try to staff these surge units, and it’s not just COVID patients that we have at the hospital right now. It’s a lot of other critically ill patients. So when you throw COVID patients on top of that, it makes it doubly hard to staff,” Lerae Wilson, vice president of patient service and chief nursing officer at St. Claire HealthCare, said in a press release.
Beshear announced the continued deployment of the Kentucky Guardsmen––who have been activated in response to the pandemic since March 2020––alongside a visit to health care workers in Franklin County.
“Despite the challenges, our health care heroes are doing what they always do: Providing the best, most compassionate care possible to Kentuckians in need,” he said. “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.”
Jason Smith, the chief medical officer at the University of Louisville Health, said that the COVID-19 patient numbers have quadrupled over the past three weeks. He and other health care experts in Kentucky have noticed that younger patients are being admitted with severe COVID-19 infections than previous waves of the pandemic.
“I urge everyone in Louisville and the commonwealth, please, step up and get the vaccine for yourself, your families and the communities around you,” he said.
State health department data indicates that almost all of Kentucky is experiencing exceedingly high rates of virus transmission and simultaneously low vaccination rates — despite multiple outreach campaigns to boost vaccine rates, including a cash prize entry. More than 2.4 million Kentuckians have been vaccinated, which represents a little more than half of the entire state population.
Health care professionals, including Smith, are urging residents to get vaccinated. Beshear also implemented new recommendations, including postponing large events, maintaining a six foot distance and wearing masks in government buildings.
“Right now, this looks like there is no end. The only chance we have is vaccination,” nursing director of critical care services at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center Steve Haines said.