FRANKFORT, Ky. — While COVID-19 case growth appears to be slowing down in Kentucky, bed capacity in hospitals statewide and in Northern Kentucky have reached "concerning" levels, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday.
Inpatient bed capacity in Northern Kentucky is at 87%, and 78% of ICU beds filled for counties in "Region 6," including Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Carroll, Grant, Bracken, Gallatin, Owen and Pendleton counties. These are total hospitalizations, not just coronavirus patients.
Other areas where inpatient or ICU bed capacity greater than 80% include Kentucky's southernmost counties and Eastern Kentucky, indicated in red above.
Beshear and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack have previously warned that as coronavirus hospitalizations rise, fewer medical staff will be available to care for all patients. Beshear said Tuesday that the latest numbers paint a "precarious" picture, but said it is unlikely to bring new restrictions for the state's medical centers. Hospitals so far have made their own decisions whether to suspend elective procedures, and the state has a 120-day supply of personal protective equipment on hand, Beshear said.
“I don’t see, at the moment, this changing our direction as far as restrictions,” the governor said.
Statewide, hospitalizations increased on Tuesday, with 1,760 Kentuckians currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 416 people in intensive care units and 207 on ventilators. While bed capacity remains a concern, Beshear said state hospitals do expect to have enough ventilators to meet Kentucky's needs.
Kentucky is still expected to lift restrictions on indoor dining, venue capacity and home gatherings after Dec. 13, and Beshear again asked Kentuckians to wear their masks and keep their distance to continue to slow COVID-19 case growth, both now and after those restrictions expire.
“We showed in July that we can do this, we can do it again," he said. "Our hospital capacity is depending on it, and these vaccines are so close."
COVID-19 case growth slowing
Beshear announced 3,114 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, adding to the total 205,668 COVID-19 cases seen since the pandemic began. He also reported 20 new virus-related deaths. So far, 2,102 Kentuckians have died of coronavirus.
“The growth in cases appears to be slowing, and we hope that holds through the rest of the week," Beshear said.
Kentucky's seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate again fell slightly to 9.56% on Tuesday. Kentucky's current fatality rate, the proportion of people who die out of people who test positive for the virus, is down to 1.03%.
Kentucky also surpassed a milestone 3 million coronavirus tests administered since the pandemic began, and more than 30,358 people have reportedly recovered from coronavirus.
All but six Kentucky counties have moved into the "red" on the state's COVID-19 incidence rate map, which indicates "critical" spread in those areas of 25 or more cases per 100,000 people.
Using the state's contact tracing database, NKY Health reports 3,236 active coronavirus cases in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties, with 13,471 people who have recovered from the virus on Tuesday. Since the pandemic began, 128 Northern Kentuckians have died from the virus.
First vaccines coming to Ky. next week
Last week, Beshear announced that Kentucky expects to distribute an initial shipment of coronavirus vaccines to residents and staff in long-term care facilities as well as frontline healthcare workers, including those at St. Elizabeth Edgewood in Northern Kentucky.
The federal government is expected to deliver 38,025 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Kentucky the week of Dec. 13; Moderna is expected to ship an additional 76,700 doses of their COVID-19 vaccines during the week of Dec. 20; another shipment of 33,800 Moderna doses is expected the week of Dec. 27. Two more Pfizer vaccine shipments are expected sometime in December.
Each company's vaccine requires a second "booster" dose, and those second doses will be delivered about three weeks after the initial shipments.
“The end of this virus is out there," he said. "We can see it, and we can feel it. But it’s still months away, and until then, we’ve got to do the right things to protect one another, knowing that when we work hard, we save the lives of those around us and ensure we have the health care capacity we need."
Where to get tested for free in NKY
In Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Covington's Gravity Diagnostics offer free, appointment-only drive-thru testing at 25 Atlantic Ave in Erlanger, the former Toyota HQ building off Mineola Pike.
The site is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You will be able to collect your own sample without leaving your vehicle and receive results within three to five days.
Additionally, appointment-only drive-up testing is available through St. E at 7200 Alexandria Pike, Alexandria. The free testing site is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Watch a replay of the briefing in the player below: