Beshear calls it ‘a scary time’ because Covid-19 case average and hospital numbers hit new high; many intensive-care units full

State Dept. for Public Health graph, adapted by Kentucky Health News

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky saw its fourth highest number of new coronavirus cases Friday and again set new records for Covid-19 hospitalizations, intensive-care-unit and ventilator use, prompting Gov. Andy Beshear to call this “one of the most dangerous times we’ve had in this pandemic.”

“I hope I can convey how real this is,” Beshear said in a Facebook post. “I hope that we’ll see more people out there wearing masks when they’re in public, but indoors. Folks, it is a scary time — definitely if you are unvaccinated, but if you are vaccinated too. Please get your shot of hope; put on your mask. We need everybody’s help to stop this.”

The state reported 5,111 new cases Friday, with 1,547, or 30 percent, in people 18 and under. The seven-day average is 4,282, a new high.

The share of Kentuckians testing positive for the virus dropped for the third straight day, to 13.17%. Beshear said Thursday that the drops are likely due to more testing.

Kentucky’s infection rate is third in the nation, according to The New York Times. Only Tennessee and South Carolina have higher rates. The Times reports that Kentucky’s daily average number of cases has risen 34% in the last two weeks.

The state says its daily rate of new cases over the last seven days is 89.89 per 100,000 residents. Counties with double that rate are Owsley, 262.1; Perry, 226.8; Leslie, 224.2; Bell, 219.5; Clay, 211; Whitley, 195.4; Russell, 183.3; and Breathitt, 179.8.

All but three counties remain in the red zone, for counties with more than 25 daily cases per 100,000 residents, considered a high level of transmission. They are Woodford, Trigg and Carlisle counties.

Kentucky hospitals reported 2,365 Covid-19 patients; 661 in intensive care, and 425 on mechanical ventilation.

All but two of the state’s hospital readiness regions are using more than 90% of their staffed intensive-care beds, with the Lake Cumberland region and the western region that includes Owensboro and Hopkinsville at 100% capacity.

The state reported 24 more Covid-19 deaths Friday, bringing the death toll to 7,845.

Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center‘s morgue reached capacity on Wednesday night, according to a hospital news release posted on the hospital’s Facebook page. Engle-Bowling Funeral Home in Hazard is providing additional morgue space as families make their funeral arrangements.

“This morgue capacity issue is a tragic consequence of this pandemic that could easily be prevented if more people would choose to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and take other precautions to help protect themselves and limit the spread of the virus to others by wearing a mask while indoors and social distancing,” Dr. Maria Braman, ARH chief medical officer, said in a news release.

Vaccination rates have inched up in Kentucky, showing a 9% increase in the last seven days, with an average of 14,642 doses per day administered, according to The Washington Post. 

The percentage of Kentuckians 18 and older who have received at least one dose of a vaccine is 69% and 57% of the total population has received at least one dose.

Other pandemic news Friday:

  • More than 2,000 University of Kentucky faculty members and students have signed an open letter asking UK to require Covid-19 vaccination for students and employees, calling it the “single most powerful tool” available to provide a “robust, in-person experience” for the students. The letter was written by a group of faculty senators and has been signed by an approximately equal number of faculty members and students as of Friday morning, Monica Kast reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.  At this time, the university is requiring unvaccinated folks to be tested weekly.
  • U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell joined senators from Missouri, North Carolina, Alabama and Idaho in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services demanding a plan to quickly distribute much needed funds from the more than $51 billion in unspent Provider Relief Fund to aid hospitals and health-care providers amid the surge in the Covid-19 pandemic.
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