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Coronavirus declines are starting to ease pressure on Kentucky hospitals, the governor reports

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Kentucky is seeing a steady decline in new coronavirus cases, even as it passes a sad milestone in the pandemic. 

Hospitals in the state are finally beginning to see hopeful signs in their inpatient census numbers after a bruising few months. Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday the downward trend in hospitalizations from COVID-19 is consistent with news from around the nation.

"We're seeing this across the United States. It is incredibly good news," the governor reported Thursday during his Team Kentucky update. "It is easing some of the pressure on our hospital systems, with now just 58 of 96 hospitals reporting critical staffing shortages." 

That’s down from peaks that saw close to 70 percent of Kentucky hospitals pushed to their limits.

But the encouraging drop-off in cases isn’t yet reflected in the state’s death toll, which remains elevated. Beshear said the commonwealth has now passed 9,000 total deaths since the start of the pandemic.

"That's more than we've lost in any modern war, any two of them put together," the governor commented.

Beshear said the state has learned, through the surges, how to better expand ICU space and utilize both the National Guard and nursing students.

On a more positive note, Kentucky appears well-positioned to provide coronavirus vaccinations to younger children once they are approved. Pfizer has asked federal regulators for emergency authorization of its vaccine in kids ages 5-11. Should the authorization be granted, there aren’t likely to be any supply issues in the commonwealth.

"We have plenty of supply throughout the state," Beshear assured. "We could vaccinate everybody on the first day, but we could vaccinate everybody in very short order."

An independent panel is slated to review the Pfizer data October 26. Both the FDA and the CDC will need to put their stamp of approval on the vaccines for children before they are rolled out. 

The application submitted by the pharmaceutical giant said the shot produced a “robust” antibody response and “favorable” safety outcomes for kids in the target age group.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.