Tuesday marked the highest single-day number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Kentucky. The governor says new statewide steps to rein in the growing surge in cases will be announced Wednesday.
While Kentucky has managed to "flatten the curve" of new COVID-19 cases during two previous spikes — buying time for researchers and healthcare workers to get a better handle on the disease — state health officials caution the current upswing has the hallmarks of more serious surges that have pushed hospitals in other states past their breaking points.
Pikeville Medical Center CEO Donovan Blackburn says facilities in his region are feeling the strain.
"With 83 COVID patients and climbing, we like many other hospitals in the state and region are nearing our capacity. It is becoming increasingly difficult to accept additional COVID patients, especially in our ICU," Blackburn said in a video message. "Transferring patients outside of the region would be our next option."
On the state level, the numbers are equally concerning, with a positivity rate climbing above 9 percent and 33 deaths reported Tuesday. A federal White House report described the nationwide trend as "aggressive, unrelenting, and expanding broad community spread."
"This is now growth from a much higher starting place, " Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack explained, describing Kentucky's numbers. "This week is on track to set a new record already with just two days' worth of data. There has to be a third intervention."
Exactly what intervention the state is planning isn't yet clear, but Gov. Andy Beshear is expected to announce new actions Wednesday afternoon after briefing lawmakers. The changes will not be recommendations, according to Beshear, but steps the state will need to follow. During his Tuesday briefing, the governor signaled that restaurants and bars will be among those affected and that the actions will not include a general curfew like the one taking effect in Ohio.