Beshear sends National Guard to 21 more hospitals as number of COVID-19 patients sets another record

Gov. Andy Beshear sent 310 more members of the Kentucky National Guard to 21 hospitals Thursday, saying “This shows that every hospital is bursting at the seams” because of Covid-19 cases, which hit a new high.

“Our hospital situation has never been more dire in my lifetime,” to the point that people in automobile accidents might not be able to get the care they need, Beshear said at his regular Thursday press conference.

The Guard members, 10 to 30 at each location, will take over logistical and administrative duties to allow clinical staff to focus on caring for patients, the governor said. “We cannot handle more sick individuals,” he said, adding that 60 of the state’s acute-care hospitals have critical staff shortages.

Also, the state has the fewest number of intensive-care beds available ever, 80, even though some new beds have been created by “taking rooms that were never meant for hospital patients.” And some people who would normally be in a hospital are being cared for at community health centers, Beshear said.

“So, we gotta have everybody wake up,” he said. “If you love your neighbor . . . we you to get vaccinated, we need you to wear a mask, because that community hospital can’t treat the next one of your neighbors.” Later, he said, “Everybody’s in contact with someone who has Covid right now.”

Asked if it is likely that even more Guard members will be called out, Beshear said it is more likely that they will be shifted to different hospitals as needs change. He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency, amid dealing with Hurricane Ida, is still considering his request that a FEMA medical team be sent to an unnamed hospital, like the one at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, which he said is the hardest-hit hospital.

Kentucky hospitals reported a record 2,479 Covid-19 patients Thursday, 55 more than Wednesday, with 665 of them in intensive care and 434 on mechanical ventilation. “The growth is just not sustainable,” Beshear said.

The state reported 5,252 new cases of the coronavirus, the fourth-highest daily total, but the seven-day rolling average went down by more than 100, to 3,977, because the previous Thursday had the second-highest number.

The state reported 36 more Covid-19 deaths, bringing the death toll to 7,971.

Beshear, speaking before the daily report was issued, said one of the fatalities was only 21 years old. He showed a graph illustrating how fatalities have become younger as older people have been vaccinated and the more contagious Delta variant has taken over.

Beshear voiced hope that “people would just be kind enough and empathetic enough to know that wearing a mask and taking a vaccine is bigger than just them. . . . I hope we can reach people without having someone they care about die being the reason that they’ll finally do the right thing.”

The percentage of Kentuckians testing positive for the coronavirus in the last seven days dropped slightly, to 14.04%, and the state’s seven-day infection rate dropped for the fifth day in a row, to 81.29 per 100,000 residents. But Kentucky’s rate remained the nation’s third-highest, behind Tennessee and South Carolina, according to The New York Times.

Counties with infection rates more than double the statewide rate were Perry, 208.5; Clay, 206; Whitley, 190.7; Rockcastle, 180.6; Leslie 167.8; Metcalfe, 164.5; and Bell, 163.5. All are in Appalachia. The Times says Perry’s infection rate is the highest in the nation.