• 52°

Hospitals feeling crunch from COVID-19, urge vaccinations 

By TOM LATEK

Kentucky Today

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Andy Beshear said the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to rise, including with younger people, and is beginning to stretch hospitals thin. Several hospital officials throughout the commonwealth joined him in a chorus of urging Kentuckians to get vaccinated.

“The Delta variant is the most aggressive, and it looks like it may be the deadliest form of COVID that we have faced,” Beshear said during a Capitol press conference.  “If you are unvaccinated, you are at the very greatest risk that you have been at since the start of the pandemic. COVID has been the third- leading cause of death in the United States over the past year and a half. Right now, it’s putting more pressure than it ever has before on our healthcare heroes.”

He pointed out a recent warning that Mississippi’s hospital system could fail in 10 days because of an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated residents and Arkansas officials reported this week there were only eight empty ICU beds in the entire state.

Healthcare officials in Kentucky offered their thoughts on the latest surge.

Cindy Lucchese, Chief Nurse Executive for UofL Physicians at UofL Health, noted it’s not just the elderly and those with underlying health condition experiencing complications.  “With the emergence of the delta variant, we are seeing younger and healthier people become very sick, and this includes pediatric patients.  Some are children under 12, who currently cannot be protected by a vaccine.”

Dr. Stacy Caudill, Chief Medical Officer at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, concurred, and said getting the vaccine is important.  “One of the most important things we have seen with this round of COVID is that the age of admission has significantly decreased.  The average age of admission has dropped from 75 to 55, and we have noticed the same with our mortalities.  Of our current admissions in the hospital, 94% are unvaccinated and 100% of our ICU patients are unvaccinated.”

Dr. William Melahn, Chief Medical Officer at St. Claire Health Care in Morehead, added, “We are seeing the most rapid rise of cases that I have seen since the pandemic started.  We are worn out, but we are not going to give up.  If you really want to help us, go get vaccinated.  Vaccinations are extraordinarily safe. We have not seen anyone in our hospital with vaccine complications, but we have seen too many patients with COVID that have not been vaccinated.”

Gov. Beshear had Mike Berry, Secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, describe a new incentive for Kentuckians to get vaccinated, known as “Vax and Visit KY.”

“Kentucky will offer in-state travel incentives at Kentucky State Parks, for Kentuckians who have received their COVID-19 Vaccination,” Berry said.  “Incentives include golf rounds, overnight lodging in some of our resort parks, as well as gift certificates for camping.”

There will be 30 drawings for what Berry termed, “Safe-cations.”  Entries are now being taken, with ten winners selected on Sept. 9, Sept. 23 and Oct. 7.

To enter, and for more information, visit tah.ky.gov.

There is still one more Shot at a Million drawing, with the winner of one million dollars and five full college scholarships to be announced Aug. 27.