COVID positivity below 6%; 52% of hospitals in state still have critical staffing issues

Other indicators continue to decline as well.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Hospitalizations, positivity and just about every other key COVID indicator continue to decline but even so, 53% of the state’s hospitals say they still are experiencing critical staffing shortages.

That was among several key points Gov. Andy Beshear noted during a briefing Monday afternoon/

In Monday’s report (click here), the state announced 544 new cases of COVID-19 and a decreased positivity rate of 5.84%, the first time it’s been below 6% in months. The rate is down from 6.25% Friday, 6.53% Thursday, 6.83% Wednesday, 7.17% Tuesday and 7.36% last Monday.

Of the new cases, 112 were in people 18 and under. The state now has recorded 736,724 cases since the outbreak began.

“We are almost decreasing in cases at the speed that we increased,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “That is a very good sign. Our weekly case numbers are the lowest they have been in 11 weeks. Our efforts to get more and more Kentuckians vaccinated have made a huge difference.”

The Governor highlighted a report that COVID-19 vaccinations could begin by early next month for children ages 5 to 11.

Beshear also shared more information from Kentucky health care leaders about COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

“Over time, your immune response to the vaccine that you got slowly decreases. You are seeing a decrease in protection from getting COVID-19, but very little decrease in your protection from hospitalization. You are still very protected from severe COVID-19 and hospitalization,” said Dr. Rebecca Dutch, virologist at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. “To decrease your chances of getting COVID, they are recommending that certain groups of people go ahead and get a booster. What that will do is basically give your immune system another chance to up its response level. It’s a protective mechanism.”

The Governor said if Kentuckians are over 65, have significant underlying conditions or are exposed to many people through their work, they should get a vaccination booster. The Moderna and Pfizer boosters are ready and available. Kentuckians who got the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine should talk to their doctor about whether they should get a different vaccine for their booster or get another J&J dose.

The state also reported 23 deaths. The state has now lost 9,640 people to COVID-related causes.

During the week ending Oct. 24, 9,749 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Kentucky.

From March 1 to Oct. 20, 84.5% of COVID-19 cases, 91.6% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 82.2% of COVID-19 deaths in Kentucky have been among those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

Other indicators saw a continued decline in Kentucky’s latest report.

Hospitalizations were at 919, the first time below 1,000 in weeks. The number was down from 1,012 Friday, 1,092 on Thursday, Wednesday’s 1,115, 1,202 on Tuesday and 1,193 last Monday.

The number of people in intensive care dropped to 281 from 289 Friday, 328 Thursday, 321 Wednesday, 355 Tuesday and 337 last Monday.

People on ventilators fell to 157 from 187 Friday, 199 Thursday, 207 Wednesday, 226 Tuesday and 219 last Monday.

But some numbers remain disturbing.

Statewide, ICU capacity in use remains above 90% in six of 10 regions and is at 100% in Region 6. Two other regions are above 80%. The improved number is that about 25% of that usage statewide is for COVID patients, a number that has slowly declined in the last eight weeks.

Meanwhile, ventilator use statewide is below 40% capacity in every region but one and is at about 13% in two regions.

And inpatient bed capacity is below 70% in all but two districts in the state and the amount used for COVID patients is below 10% in all but District 7.

During the week ending Oct. 24, 9,749 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Kentucky.

From March 1 to Oct. 20, 84.5% of COVID-19 cases, 91.6% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 82.2% of COVID-19 deaths in Kentucky have been among those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

Beshear said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is providing financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020. FEMA’s COVID-19 funeral assistance helpline is 1-844-684-6333 (TTY: 800-462-7585), available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT Monday through Friday. For fastest service following their application, Kentuckians can begin submitting documentation online through DisasterAssistance.gov.

FEMA Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Strike Teams Update
Gov. Beshear said after eight weeks onsite in Bowling Green, Corbin, Lexington, Louisville and Somerset, five FEMA EMS strike teams – including a total of 25 ambulances and 50 staff members – received 2,191 transport requests, completed 1,957 patient transports and drove 70,915 miles with patients onboard. FEMA strike team staff members serving in Kentucky represented 14 states. The teams were demobilized Oct. 24, and today, Gov. Beshear thanked them for their selfless efforts.

“We thank FEMA and those who worked on these teams because yesterday was their last day of service,” said Gov. Beshear. “They are now headed to other places that need them more at the moment. We appreciate them.”

Kentucky Labor Market Update
The Governor said for August 2021 Kentucky had the fifth-highest hiring rate in the country.

“That means people are finding jobs, but I know we need them to find them faster,” Gov. Beshear said. “Five-point-five percent is exciting.”

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