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Beshear: Kentucky in 'uncharted territory' as hospitalizations surge

Beshear said those numbers "would've been the trigger for me" to put a masking order in place for indoor spaces across the state.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state is in "uncharted territory" as officials report a new record for hospitalizations for the fifth straight day.

The governor announced Wednesday the state's highest positivity rate ever at 13.16%. Kentucky had 4,849 new cases and 65 deaths.

There are at least 2,074 COVID patients in the hospital. Beshear said there were 549 people in the ICU and 338 on ventilators. On July 14, Kentucky had 239 COVID patients in the hospital and 29 on ventilators.

"To know that we had the third-highest days of cases and lost that many people at a time where it is entirely preventable just hits you on an entirely different level," Beshear said.

Beshear said those numbers "would've been the trigger for me" to put a masking order in place for indoor spaces across the state.

The Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously ruled Aug. 21 a temporary injunction blocking news laws that limit the governor's emergency authority powers was "improper," meaning it is up to legislators to approve the orders.

Beshear said despite reaching "a critical state," Kentuckians have the ability to get vaccinated and wear masks in an effort to protect themselves and others.

"The difference between now, uncharted territory, and where we were before...we know how to win, we know how to prevent this devastation," Beshear said.

Kentucky's most recent data shows fully vaccinated Kentuckians make up 9.4% of cases and 9.2% of hospitalizations. From March 1 to Aug. 25, fully vaccinated Kentuckians make up around 12.9% of COVID deaths.

"I hope, I pray, that people who haven't gotten the vaccine...that something will touch their heart and they will get it," Beshear said.

The governor also announced efforts to help Kentucky hospitals struggling as cases and admissions continue to increase.

Beshear said one-third of all hospitals across the state are reporting critical staffing shortages. Many, he said, are treating patients who are much sicker than those they normally treat.

To help increase health care and hospital capacity, Beshear said the state is:

  • Deploying the National Guard to help COVID response efforts,
  • Requesting FEMA strike teams for understaffed hospitals and
  • Providing COVID testing assistance to hospitals with the most need.

The governor said FEMA has approved EMS strike teams, and the state has requested nurse strike teams.

Initially, the state planned to reduce the role of the military in COVID efforts by Sept. 30, however Col. Christopher Howell said they are going to be helping until at least Dec. 30. Howell said they will have a greater impact in schools, universities, department of corrections and hospitals.

Beshear, Howell and other health officials across the state continued to encourage people to get the vaccine now that it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"Let's remember, we can defeat the deadliest thing we've ever seen by going to the drug store, or the grocery store or your local health department," Beshear said. "Call any of them and I'm pretty positive they'll come to you."

More than 2.48 million Kentuckians have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

RELATED: 'All of this is avoidable' | Kentucky reports highest positivity rate since pandemic started

RELATED: Louisville area hospital systems 'very full' as COVID hospitalizations increase

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