More than half of state’s acute-care hospitals report critical staff shortages; 7-day average of new coronavirus cases sets a record

Ky. Health News graph; daily cases from initial, unadjusted reports. For a larger version, click on it.

Ky. Health News graph; daily cases from initial, unadjusted reports. For a larger version, click on it.

By Melissa Patrick and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

Before celebrating the third and final batch of winners of the state’s lottery for the vaccinated, Gov. Andy Beshear gave yet another grim pandemic report, saying 50 of the state’s 96 acute-care hospitals report critical staff shortages.

“It’s worse from a hospitalization standpoint and a hospital capacity standpoint than it’s ever been for any reason,” Beshear said at an event held to announce the lottery winners. “You are at more risk now if you are in a car accident or have a heart attack of not getting all the services you need than ever before.”

The state continued to report record numbers of Covid-19 patients in hospitals and intensive care, and on mechanical ventilation, though the daily gains were mostly the lowest of the week. But 4,815 new cases of the coronavirus raised the seven-day average above 4,000 per day. It is 4,045, breaking the record of 4,002 set Jan. 12.

Kentucky hospitals reported 2,129 Covid-19 patients, 592 in intensive care and 349 on ventilation. Beshear noted the latter record a sign of the seriousness of the pandemic, noting the state had delivered two ventilators to T.J. Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow because it had run out.

“People should rightfully be very scared of the Delta variant. . . . It is that serious. It is that aggressive,” he said.

The seven-day infection rate set a new record Thursday and did again Friday, rising to 84.49 daily cases per 100,000 residents. Counties with rates more than double the statewide rate are Clay, 259.9; Bell, 226.1; Whitley, 215.1; Owsley, 197.4; LaRue, 175.6; and Perry, 171.9. The next six are Laurel, 166.6; Wolfe, 163.7; Jackson, 161.8; Grayson, 153.5; Breckinridge, 153.5; and Allen, 148.1.

The lowest rate, 25.1, is in Woodford County, which has the highest percentage of residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine, 72%.

Kentucky’s infection rate ranks fifth in the nation, trailing Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee. Indiana and West Virginia are 15th and 16th; Missouri is 23rd, Virginia is 30th, Ohio is 34th and Illinois is 36th.

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus was again the highest since testing became widely available last spring: 13.33%.

The state reported 18 more Covid-19 deaths, raising the seven-day average to 24 per day. One month ago, it was four per day.

Beshear reiterated several of the state’s most recent efforts to provide relief to its hardest-hit hospitals, including use of the Kentucky National Guard in ways that free up hospital staff; Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency-medical strike teams arriving in Louisville, Prestonsburg and Somerset; a request to FEMA for nurse strike teams; and using money from the 2020 federal pandemic relief bill to set up four testing sites.

Beshear again called on Kentuckians to get vaccinated, and reiterated that it’s time for a statewide mask mandate, a measure that would have to be imposed by the legislature because of last Saturday’s state Supreme Court ruling upholding laws that limit the governor’s emergency powers.

“If we truly want to stop the surge and save lives . . . the legislature is going to need to do a statewide mask order,” Beshear said, noting national projections of 100,000 more deaths, “half of which could be saved by universal masking That’s 50,000 people across the United States; that’s a pretty good reason to do it.”

The winner of the third $1 million prize, Mary Mattingly of Louisville, Mattingly urged vaccination and expressed her appreciation and via video because she was traveling.

“I want to use this opportunity to encourage each of you to get the shot of hope,” Mattingly said. “The vaccines cannot stop every case, but they can greatly reduce your chances of acquiring a serious, long term or fatal case of Covid-19.”

The five Kentucky youth selected for full postsecondary-education scholarships are Marissa Herron of Mount Washington, Lillie Nielsen of Nicholasville, Jordan Ballard of Crestwood, Grider Burch of Lexington and Jaden Wattley of Louisville.
“The response we’ve had for this sweepstakes has been great,” Beshear said, saying it generated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of favorable publicity for the vaccines, which are the targets of misinformation. “I do think we’re at the point where incentives can probably only do so much.”
Beshear said 762,174 adults entered to win the three $1 million prizes and 47,544 youth entered to win the 15 scholarships. Since announcing the sweepstakes, 419,566 Kentuckians received a Covid-19 vaccine.
Daily vaccinations continued to increase. Today’s report, reflecting yesterday’s shots, says 16,410 doses were given, raising the seven-day average to 13,389 per day, the most in more than two months.
Chart by The Washington Post, adapted by Kentucky Health News; to enlarge, click on it.

In other pandemic news Friday:

  • Franklin County Schools said they would close next week due to a rising number of virus cases, and will offer students non-traditional instruction and work.
  • The Grayson County school board adjourned without finishing its business Thursday night “as tensions escalated and more audience members began speaking out of turn” about masks and other controversial subjects and “additional Leitchfield Police Department personnel responded,” the Grayson County News-Gazette reports.
  • Senate President Robert Stivers did a “Kentucky Newsmakers” interview about the newly powerful legislature’s approach to the pandemic. It will air Sunday at 6 a.m. on WKYT-27 and 10 a.m. on The CW Lexington, WKYT’s digital channel 27.2.
  • The University of Kentucky says it’s not taken vaccine mandates off the table, even as it expands incentives for vaccination, WKYT reports. Starting next week, unvaccinated students and employees must be tested weekly.
Previous Article
Next Article