Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued a stark warning Tuesday about the state's hospitals and intensive care units approaching capacity as COVID-19 cases continue their recent surge.
"The situation is serious, and it's alarming, and it's nearing critical," Beshear said during a news conference. "When the ICU fills up because of COVID...it means that there is not a bed when someone is in that car accident, has a heart attack, has a stroke.
"We're starting to see that more and more across Kentucky," he said.
Beshear's counterpart in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine, scheduled a news conference for 3:30 p.m. to discuss the state's continued response to the pandemic.
ICUs filling up again
Beshear said state data indicate that COVID-related hospitalizations have been doubling every 14 days in recent weeks as the delta variant continues to bring more infections, roughly 87% of those cases being among Kentucky's unvaccinated population — including children under 12 years old who are not yet eligible to receive their shots.
"This isn't just hitting adults; with the delta variant, your kids are at greater risk than they have been," he said. "By the end of the week, we expect to have as many Kentuckians in the hospital with COVID as any time since the start of this pandemic."
Beshear last week signed an executive order mandating that all K-12 school districts require students and staff wear masks while indoors.
"The healthcare capacity is going to get really difficult here in the weeks ahead," said health commissioner, Dr. Steven Stack. He said hospitals in states to the south, which are seeing a swifter surge in ICU cases, are already calling on southern Kentucky hospitals to take on their overflow.
"This means non-COVID patients are going to start being impacted," Stack said.
Stack predicted in the coming days, Kentucky ICUs will see their highest number of COVID cases since the pandemic began.
"This is all preventable," Stack said. "People spreading false information about the utility and value of masks and the safety of these vaccines are killing people, plain and simple."
DeWine did not indicate if his remarks would discuss the state's hospital and ICU capacities, but data compiled by the New York Times indicated numerous southwest Ohio ICUs were nearing capacity as of last week:
- Jewish Hospital-Mercy Health: 91%
- Mercy Health-Anderson Township: 90%
- Christ Hospital (Cincinnati): 88%
- University of Cincinnati Medical Center: 84%
- Bethesda North: 74%
- Good Samaritan Hospital: 74%
- Mercy Health-Fairfield: 73%
It is important to note that not all ICU beds represented in this data are occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Third booster shots
Stack also said a third COVID-19 vaccine booster shot four weeks or more after their second shot will be available for all Kentucky nursing home residents as well as those with:
- Active or recent treatment for cancer/malignancy
- Solid-organ or hematopoietic stem cell transplants
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with immunosuppressive medications
Stack recommended those who think they are eligible for a third booster should ask their primary care provider.
"This is not a general option for the rest of us," Stack said but indicated his office was waiting on further guidance from federal health officials.
Watch the full news conference in the player below: