Twenty-eight members of the physician leadership at Baptist Health Corbin and St. Joseph London signed a letter Friday urging members of the community to aid in the fight against COVID–19 by getting vaccinated and wearing masks correctly when indoors in public spaces.
Dr. David Worthy, vice president and chief medical officer at Baptist Health Corbin, said the letter was originally penned by another hospital medical staff, but has since made the rounds among hospitals across Kentucky to help spread the word to the community about the crisis local hospitals are facing.
“It was the right message at the right time,” Worthy said noting that he contacted Dr. Shelley Stanko, chief medical officer at St. Joseph London, in an effort to send the message not just to the residents in Corbin or London, but to the entire area.
Worthy said the Intensive Care Unit at Baptist Health Corbin is at capacity and officials are in the process of attempting to open another area of the hospital as additional ICU space.
Worthy noted that physicians at Baptist Health Corbin have faced multiple instances of patients that require transfer to a larger facility, but have not been able to find bed space.
“We had one patient where we tried 22 different hospitals,” Worthy said noting that those hospitals included the University of Tennessee, University of Kentucky, Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus and West Virginia University Medical Center in Morgantown.
“The system is overwhelmed,” Worthy said noting that it is not just COVID–19 but other emergency medical issues, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Worthy said COVID–19 patients brought into the hospital can required stays between 10 and 20 days.
While the new Delta variant of COVID–19 has infected those who have been vaccinated, Worthy noted that more than 90 percent of new cases involve unvaccinated individuals.
“Vaccinated individuals that contract COVID–19 tend to have mild cases,” Worthy said.
In addition to the ICU, Worthy said the new cases are hitting the hospital’s emergency department hard.
In an effort to relieve that pressure, Worthy said individuals should consider urgent care facilities for minor medical issues that may have previously resulted in a trip to the emergency room.
Worthy said the hospital staff treating COVID–19 patients has the personal protective equipment and other items needed to provide treatment.
“But we don’t have enough staff and we don’t have enough room,” Worthy said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that it has approved the Pfizer COVID–19 vaccine.
“While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”
According to FDA officials, the vaccine remains available for individuals ages 12 through 15 under the emergency use authorization.
“Without our community’s support and collaboration, our hospitals are at the brink of being unable to effectively care for our communities in the same way we are all accustomed,” the physician leadership stated in the letter. “So please, help us be able to help you. Without your support, we will not be successful.”
The Whitley County Health Department reported 74 additional cases on Tuesday, including 23 children. Ten of the new cases were breakthrough cases, meaning the individuals had been fully vaccinated.
There are 412 active cases in Whitley County.
Officials noted that 34.1 percent of Whitley County residents are now fully vaccinated.
All Kentucky counties, with the exception of Robertson County, are now in the COVID–19 incidence rate red zone.
Twenty-seven counties have incidence rates in excess of 100
Clay County continues to have the highest incidence rate at 219.7.
Whitley County is at 162.7. Laurel County is at 154.6. Knox County is at 119.3. Bell County is at 161.3. McCreary County is at 106.1.