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Louisville hospitals face record-breaking admissions, blame rise in COVID-19 cases

Doctors say if you aren't vaccinated or boosted, the time is now to roll up your sleeve.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Hospitals across Louisville reported record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday, Jan. 12.

Louisville Metro Health officials said it’s likely one in 15 people in Jefferson County have the virus.

"We need help from everyone,” Charlotte Ipsan, chief administrative officer at Norton Women's & Children's Hospital, said.

A month ago, Ipsan said Norton was treating roughly 200 COVID-19 patients. 

As of Wednesday, they’re treating 298.

"That's the highest number of hospitalizations we've seen since the beginning of the pandemic," Ipsan said.

Norton Hospital has 23 COVID-19 patients on ventilators, which is fewer than they’ve seen with other surges, but with record hospitalization rates, Ipsan said she’s still concerned and is urging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

“Yes, the ventilator usage is much lower than what we saw in other parts of the pandemic," Ipsan said. "But if you are vaccinated, if you are boosted, you are less likely to need hospitalization."

RELATED: US hospitals seeing different kind of COVID surge this time

Baptist Health Louisville is currently treating 179 COVID patients, which is more than triple what it was last month. On Dec. 10, they were treating 52 COVID patients.

As with most hospitals around Kentucky and the nation, doctors said the majority of those being treated at Baptist are not vaccinated or have some underlying illness.

Something new with the omicron variant though, is doctors are starting to see more vaccinated people come into the hospital if they haven’t been boosted.

"We're still seeing sick people,” Dr. Chuck Anderson, chief medical officer at Baptist Health, said. We're seeing more people with partial vaccinations that might need hospitalization because they have other illnesses."

Anderson said that with 1 in 15 people possibly having the virus, "a lot of people are not coming into the hospital, but because it’s so many people, we are seeing an increase in our numbers."

He said 20 people are currently in their ICU. Of those, 16 are not vaccinated. Four people are vaccinated but have underlying conditions. 

University of Louisville Health reported 225 COVID positive patients this week. Of those, 37 are in ICU. UofL Health could not provide hard numbers on total beds available throughout its system because admissions and discharges are constantly changing the numbers. 

Both Norton and Baptist Health said they are doing okay with capacity at this time as well. 

RELATED: Louisville, Indiana doctors provide guidance on omicron variant

'Just assume that one of 15 people you see when you're out in public has COVID'

WHAS11 News received questions from viewers on where the one in 15 number reported by the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness came from, so our team looked into that.

Over a 10 day period – Jan. 1 through Jan. 10 – there were 21,447 positive tests in Louisville.

Take that figure and divide it by Louisville Metro's population, which is roughly 766,757, and you get about 3%.

Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, said data they’re seeing from wastewater surveillance shows that 3% number is likely about half of what it should be.

"From our wastewater and our test positivity, we know there are people that we are missing that are not testing positive,” Moyer said. “So we think it's at least double that, which would be 6%, which is about one in 15 people currently testing positive."

Health experts said while omicron isn't as severe as other variants, people are still getting very sick and suggest following basic mitigation measures like frequent hand washing, masking and getting vaccinated.

"Just assume that one of 15 people you see when you're out in public has COVID,” Moyer said.


Contact reporter Rachel Droze at rdroze@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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