Team in Morehead is latest assistance to hospitals, health care system battling deadly surge
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 5, 2021) – As part of the unprecedented effort by his administration to expand health care capacity and protect Kentuckians during this deadly spike in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Andy Beshear announced a federal medical team arrived in Kentucky this weekend to support health care heroes and residents, increasing staffing and the ability to open more hospital beds.
A National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Team requested by the Governor arrived Saturday at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead to assist the hospital.
“We are pursuing every opportunity to increase our capacity to respond to this deadly surge and to assist our health care facilities and staff, which are strained caring for our fellow Kentuckians with record hospitalizations and critically ill patients,” said Gov. Beshear. “Thank you to our health care heroes and National Guard teams who continue to serve on the front lines, and thank you to the federal government for their continued assistance during this dangerous time in the pandemic.”
The NDMS team, comprising a medical officer, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, supply officer, respiratory therapist, four registered nurses and three paramedics, has mobilized to assist through Sept. 17. The team can help with opening more available beds that had not been used due to lack of staffing. The team is fortifying existing staffing and areas of specialty, including those offered by St. Claire’s respiratory team, and clinicians tasked with ventilator management. The NDMS team can also support emergency department operations, contributing to increased ability for the facility to treat more patients.
Along with requesting the federal medical teams, the Governor has taken other actions to assist health care facilities and increase capacity during this surge, including utilizing the Kentucky National Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Emergency Medical Services (EMS) strike teams and nursing students.
Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Department for Public Health, said: “The actions taken build on the unprecedented and aggressive actions taken to help control the spread of COVID-19. For 18 months, the seriousness of this pandemic has been stressed. The coronavirus is serious. It kills and can make people extremely sick and for a long time. We’re seeing that the delta variant, which represents most of the current cases of COVID-19, takes dangerousness to a new level. It is a vicious, contagious microbe and is finding its way to younger Kentuckians. We need to continue to do everything we can to prevent its spread. The strongest defenses we have are to get vaccinated if you’re 12 or older and to wear a face mask when you’re indoors.”
Five 10-member FEMA EMS strike teams are onsite in Kentucky tasked with transfers and transporting COVID-19 patients. Each team is comprised of five advanced life support ambulances, and each ambulance is staffed with one paramedic and one emergency medical technician (EMT). Each strike team is positioned regionally, in Corbin, Lexington, Louisville, Owensboro and Somerset. They are centrally dispatched and can respond to any area in the state.
More than 100 Kentucky National Guard members, in teams of 15, have been deployed for a new COVID-19 response mission. So far, hospitals that have received Kentucky National Guard assistance include: St. Claire Regional Medical Center, Appalachian Regional Healthcare in Hazard, The Medical Center at Bowling Green and Pikeville Medical Center.
On Wednesday, a 15-member non-clinical National Guard team arrived in Morehead to support St. Claire Regional Medical Center assisting with environmental services, dietary services and transport allowing hospital staff to focus on patients. Their assistance has been sorely needed to support the hospital staff during a time of spiking patient volume largely due to exponential increase in the delta variant of COVID-19. The Guard will remain at St. Claire for at least two weeks, with the potential of continuing to assist St. Claire or relocate to another hospital in Kentucky.
“We are pleased to have the temporary assistance of 30 members of the National Guard who arrived at the Medical Center at Bowling Green Aug. 31. These men and women are serving in various general, non-clinical and non-administrative capacities throughout our facility. Their assistance and service is much appreciated and will offer relief to our staff. We are so very grateful,” The Medical Center at Bowling Green leadership team said in a statement last week.
The Governor announced last week Galen College of Nursing stepped up and offered to support health care heroes during the current COVID-19 surge. Nursing students from Galen will be joining hospitals and health care teams in need by offering assistance with testing, clinical needs and other services.
Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander noted concerning Kentucky-related data available on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker site.
“As of Aug. 27, the rate of new COVID cases had increased by 50% over the previous week,” Secretary Friedlander said. “Hospitalizations were up 56%. The community transmission rate increased by 524%. We have never seen the like of this in our lifetimes, and we must come together and do everything possible to clip further spread of this virus.”
As of Aug. 27, according to federal data, 88% of positive cases were linked to the highly-transmissible delta variant.
On Saturday, the Governor called the General Assembly into special session beginning Tuesday morning to extend the State of Emergency and provide his administration and public health officials with the tools and measures they need to respond to the pandemic, particularly during this alarming surge.
The Governor is asking lawmakers to consider legislation to address several topics including: extending the state of emergency until Jan. 15, 2022; setting forth the criteria regarding the Governor’s authority to require facial coverings in indoor settings in certain circumstances; providing additional flexibility for school districts; and making an appropriation from the American Rescue Plan Act to support mitigation and prevention activities, such as testing and vaccine distribution.
Kentucky is fast approaching 600,000 COVID-19 cases during the almost 18 months of the pandemic, with record numbers of Kentuckians in the hospital (2,365), in intensive care (661) and on ventilators (425). On Friday, 1,547 of the 5,111 new cases were Kentuckians 18 and younger. The positivity rate Friday was 13.17%. Just two months ago, on July 1, 2021, Kentucky reported only 215 new cases of COVID-19 – 47 of which of were for those age 18 and under – and three deaths, 201 hospitalizations, 55 patients in the ICU, 25 patients on ventilators and a positivity rate of 1.99%.