Hundreds of front-line health-care workers gathered at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead Wednesday night to get thanks from Gov. Andy Beshear and others for their work during the pandemic.
“You all engaged in one of the most remarkable acts of heroism that I’ve ever seen,” Beshear said, speaking in the past tense – though he said the next day that the recent surge of coronavirus cases poses the prospect that the health-care system in some places could be overwhelmed.
Showing emotion, Beshear said, “The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life is to read out the ages and the counties and the genders of those we lost over and over every day. But I showed up every day because I didn’t want anybody else to have to do that. But you were sitting there holding their hands and you knew their names and you were going to talk to their family members. And that is something so special that we needed you for above and beyond your regular jobs. You are all super-heroes.”
The state no longer lists the age, sex and county of Kentuckians who die from Covid-19. Deaths are averaging fewer than four per day; two months ago, the average was about eight per day. But deaths are a lagging indicator of the pandemic, which has resurged with a more contagious variant of the virus.
Friday, Kentucky reported 994 new cases, raising its seven-day average to 713, more than double what it was 10 days ago. The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus rose for the 29th straight day, to 6.97%. The seven-day infection rate rose to 15.09 per 100,000 residents, more than triple what it was two weeks ago.
Few masks were visible at the Morehead event. Beshear said at his press conference the next day that everyone wore a badge saying they had been vaccinated for the virus. However, the more contagious Delta variant is causing many cases in vaccinated people, and it generates a much heavier viral load, which is amplified in large crowds, and people can spread the virus without knowing they have it.
At the event, though, the accent was on the positive.
Dr. Steven Stack, who became state public-health commissioner about a month before the pandemic hit, told the workers, “Up until March last year, I would have been in an emergency department. I would have been on the front lines with all of you. So as much as this has been difficult and hard, and as much as I’ve had this incredible privilege to get to serve with and advise a governor and support a state, it does feel in a way like I’ve been on the sidelines throughout this. Because I would have been in the Emergency Department with all of you. So I want to thank you very much for what you have done.”
Nikita Gibbs, a registered nurse who has worked at the Morehead’s coronavirus testing site every day received a “Service Above Self” award. “She has seen over a hundred thousand nostrils, and she is exposed herself almost 3,000 times to Covid-positive patients. We all know her as the girl and scrubs the wears cowboy boots,” said Donald H Lloyd II, the hospital’s president and CEO.
“Gibbs said the journey has been a difficult one,” reports
Karyn Czar of WUKY
. “But like all her counterparts, one she felt called to do.” She told Czar, “It was definitely pretty terrifying at first because I do have a four year-old at home, and she’s my pride and joy. So taking that home to her, I was definitely on edge about that. I just wanted to make sure that I help serve my community and the best way that I could.”
Gibbs and other health professionals told Czar that the best way you can thank them is by getting vaccinated. “I really encourage you to get vaccinated, because it is not just for you but the people around you and your loved ones … All my family is vaccinated,” Gibbs said. “I have strongly supported it. Every friend that I talk to, I strongly support getting it.”
The local star at the event was Beshear’s senior adviser, Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook, who was a state representative in the area for many years before challenging Beshear in the 2019 gubernatorial primary. He tearfully thanked St. Claire employees for helping his father, Jess Adkins, then 84, survive Covid-19 last year.
“My father started his journey of whipping Covid at Saint Claire,” Adkins said. “If any of you are in this room that treated my father, thank you from the bottom of my heart because I want to report to you your good work. My father has fully recovered. My father is on a tractor. My father is plowing, disking, and raising a half-acre garden and doing it without any oxygen whatsoever. My father is healed because of your good work, and I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart.”
Information for this story was also gathered from WUKY and WKYT-TV.