LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky’s surge in positive cases of the virus is taking its toll on the state’s health care system.
According to a New York Times database, 6 Kentucky counties (Clay, Grayson, Perry, Rockcastle, Russell and Whitney) are among the top of the counties in the nation for the rate of COVID-19 infection for the last week. .
Gov. Andy Beshear said 69% of the state’s hospitals are desperate in their staffing numbers. He said medical facilities are doing what they can to keep things moving including cutting elective surgeries and turning operating room beds into more beds for the ICU.
The state has roughly 400 National Guard members across various hospitals statewide supporting staff in need.
"This is our highest number to date -- meaning our hospitals are struggling more today than at any other point in the pandemic -- at least looking at how many of them are struggling," Gov. Beshear said.
With this deployment of National Guard members, this is one of the largest deployments related to healthcare in the state’s history.
Here is a breakdown of cases from the last three days:
Saturday: 4,470 cases; 18 new deaths – Sunday: 3,111 cases; 21 new deaths – Monday 2,426 cases; 29 deaths.
Data also shows continued growth in cases among 10 to 19-year-olds.
With the surge, health officials believe that masking should be necessary.
"The Kentucky Department of Public Health guidance is unequivocal -- indoor masking in a school setting should not be optional now. It is a choice of these schools, but the public health guidance is unwavering and unequivocal," Dr. Steven Stack said. "They’ve gotta wear masks to school. Testing does not work without wearing those masks indoors. If you have everyone getting exposed all the time – you can’t ever keep up with contact tracing, you can’t ever mitigate the spread of disease."
After the passage of SB1 during last week's special session, some school districts in the state are still requiring face masks.
SB1 unraveled the masking requirement set by the Kentucky Department of Education and allows school districts to have control of setting mandates.
Beshear also highlighted the death of a Lee County Schools custodian who was the latest victim to die from the virus since the school year began. Bill Bailey was the second employee to die who worked at Lee County Elementary. It led to the school district to tackle a mask policy in wake of Bailey's death.
The governor cautioned those who still aren't taking the effect of the virus seriously.
"Don't fool yourself. I heard a whole lot last year about how COVID doesn't spread in schools -- COVID spreads everywhere, anywhere it can," Beshear said. "It doesn't have any rules other than it will do what it takes to kill as many of us as it can."