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UofL Health opening unused floor in anticipation of COVID-19 surge

Doctors anticipate having twice as many patients in the hospital in the next two to three weeks.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When the pandemic began, health care heroes were praised and respected. Now, they're watching the numbers double and doing what they can to prepare for a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations. 

UofL Health is now taking an unused floor in Jewish Hospital and making it into a place for up to 37 COVID-19 patients. The space is currently used as a call room and training space, with Dr. Jason Smith saying they had not needed it up until now.

"We didn't decommission any of the rooms," Dr. Smith said.  "We kept them up to spec, we just haven't moved patients into there because, to be honest with you, we didn't have the need."

Officials are now starting to see that need looming in the future as case numbers shoot up. In a joint letter to the community, Smith joined Baptist Health Chief Medical Officer Kenneth Anderson to ask for people's assistance in curbing the surge.

"The number of COVID-19 cases in our community is rapidly rising, and our hospital beds are filling with those too ill to quarantine at home and care for themselves," the letter says. "It is critically important that we take action now."

Smith said the surge is "like watching a slow-motion car accident."

"You can see it coming, but there's just nothing we can do more to stop it," Smith said. "We've given every warning we can, we've offered every bit of advice we can. I hope people try and keep themselves safe and their families safe. now is about dealing with the repercussions of the decisions they're going to make."

In the midst of the global pandemic, and the city of Louisville's deadliest year of homicides, the dedication to helping the community is what keeps them going.

"Sometime it feels like the support people gave us at the beginning of this is gone. its a hard message," Smith said.  "I continually thank our employees. Our staff does a fantastic job from top to bottom. They're very professional and take their job very seriously."

Gov. Andy Beshear put guidelines in place requiring no more than two households gather indoors for thanksgiving and no more than eight people be in that group. Smith, Anderson and other local health officials have echoed Beshear's restrictions, encouraging people to continue to wash hands, wear a mask and avoid gatherings.

For more guidance from local and national health officials, click here.

RELATED: 'We ask that you stand with us': Louisville hospitals say they are at crossroads as COVID cases rise

RELATED: 'The spread is out of control' | Health officials say Louisville cases likely higher than records show

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