Kentucky to resume ‘surge preparations’ as hospital admissions rise

Gov. Beshear provides Tuesday COVID-19 update

FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Kentucky’s COVID-19 metrics indicate the state’s current surge is getting worse, prompting officials to resume so-called “surge preparations” set aside at the beginning of the pandemic.

Tuesday Kentucky reported 1,312 newly confirmed cases, the state’s largest Tuesday case increase of the pandemic (by an alarming margin of 258 cases.) Monday’s case increase set a similar record.

Kentucky is on track to set a record for weekly cases for the fifth time in the last six weeks. It failed to do so last week only because of a backlog of cases reported the week prior.

Northern Kentucky has fared better than the rest of the state through the current escalation, but Boone County had the fourth-most newly confirmed cases Tuesday with 36.

COVID-19 incidence rate by county in Kentucky for Oct. 20
COVID-19 incidence rate by county in Kentucky for Oct. 20 (Source: Kentucky Department of Public Health)

Sixteen COVID-19-related deaths were also reported Tuesday.

The state’s 5.08 positivity rate is the highest it’s been since Aug. 25, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.

Prior to the current “escalation phase” of the virus in Kentucky — the state’s worst since March, according to Beshear — it was averaging around 520 hospitalizations and 130 patients in the ICU.

According to Tuesday’s report, 776 Kentuckians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 202 are in ICUs, both record highs since at least Sept. 1.

Some 96 patients with COVID-19 are currently on ventilators statewide.

As of Monday, the governor reported around 66 percent of Kentucky’s hospital beds were filled (with COVID and non-COVID patients,) and 71 percent of its ICU beds were occupied, giving the state some headroom to contend with the current case escalation. But he warned that headroom could quickly diminish if the current escalation “takes off.”

The White House’s most recent report on COVID in Kentucky carries the same dire assessment. The report does note early signs of a stabilization, but it also highlights 70 percent of Kentuckians live in counties deemed to be at ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ risk of community transmission.

All that taken into account, the governor announced Tuesday the state had begun to logistical preparations to increase hospital bed capacity. That could include creating field hospitals, putting patients in hotels and using state parks as makeshift quarantine zones. The state could also resume stockpiling and distributing PPE supplies to hospitals.

“If we can’t get everybody’s buy in and we can’t get more people doing the right thing each and every day, my concern is that we are going to experience a real surge that we must avoid,” Beshear said. “But if we’re going to face it, I want you to know that we are spending our time getting prepared.”

All the measures above were contemplated — and variously implemented — early in the pandemic, but Kentucky’s success flattening its curve rendered them increasingly unnecessary. By the state’s mid-summer case escalation, the measures were all but shelved, and that escalation by itself wasn’t serious enough to warrant their return.

Not so with the current escalation, Beshear explained Tuesday.

“My concern is we are going to experience a real surge,” he said. “It’s everywhere.”

The governor continued to advise the same practices shown to be effective over the summer: mask use, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, good hygiene and staying home if you feel sick.

“We’ve shown it here in Kentucky, we can stop it,” he said. ‘We’ve stopped it at least twice before. But we need to stop this one. (...) Let’s not wait until it gets worse than it is right now."

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