Coronavirus Health

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear hasn’t stopped pleading with the public to stay home, wear face coverings and do whatever it takes to slow the spread of the coronavirus as the state marked its deadliest day yet in the pandemic. 

On Tuesday, Beshear announced a record high 4,151 new cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of 35 people. Hospitalizations have sharply risen as well to 1,777, and coronavirus patients occupy 441 ICU beds, another record. 

“The virus is spreading so much it overwhelms any communal setting, any one. It’s overwhelmed our long-term care facilities, it’s overwhelmed our prisons, when it gets in. ” Beshear said. “Any places where people gather it will spread and ultimately will harm people.” 

There are 173 long-term care residents with the virus and Beshear said 18 more residents have died.

Meanwhile the looming end of federal coronavirus relief spending threatens to hamper the state’s ability to track the spread of the virus. Mark Carter with the Kentucky Department of Public Health discussed the state’s contact tracing efforts, which have been funded by the federal CARES Act. That money will run out at the end of the year.

“We desperately need either an extension of the date, or additional funding, or both, in order to take this program into 2021 and get us through the months we need to get through until we reach the point where we have a widely available vaccine,” Carter said.

COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in Kentucky in the past two months — six in ten of the state’s total cases were reported in October and November. More than 40% of the overall positive cases were found in November, making it the worst month for the state after it ducked the assault of the coronavirus in the first months of the spread. October and November saw 734 deaths, and COVID-19 forced thousands of people to hospitals while hundreds needed intensive care or ventilators.

Other states in the Ohio Valley also have uncontrolled spread of the virus. Ohio reported more than 9,000 new cases in 24 hours. On Monday, the state announced that hospitalizations in Ohio were at an all-time high with 5,060 patients. Hospitalization numbers have grown exponentially since Nov. 1, when the state had 1,700 hospitalizations.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Chief Clinical Officer Andy Thomas also said people hospitalized for COVID-19 will crowd out others who also need medical care. 

“The reality is that hospitals are making difficult decisions about delaying care. It may be non-urgent care, but it’s care that may cause someone to go to the ICU after surgery,” Thomas said. “A lot of hospitals are delaying those surgeries because they can’t afford their ICUs to be overtaxed.”

West Virginia’s coronavirus cases have mounted as well. The state reported 976 new cases on Tuesday. 

Corinne Boyer covers health issues from partner station WEKU in Richmond, KY. Previously, she covered western Kansas for the Kansas News Service at High Plains Public Radio, where she received two Kansas Association of Broadcasters awards for her reporting on immigrant communities. Before living on the High Plains, Corinne was a newspaper reporter in Oregon. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and interned at KLCC, Eugene’s NPR affiliate. Corinne grew up near the South Carolina coast and is a graduate of the College of Charleston. She has also lived in New York City and South Korea.