FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky now has the most COVID-19 patients taking up ICU beds than at any point in the pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Beshear announced Thursday that Kentucky hit a record for COVID-19 patients in the ICU

  • Hospitalizations are also near a record level, data shows

  • Hospitals across the state are dealing with a shortage of staff

  • Many hospitals have stopped doing elective procedures

Not only are beds filling up to a record level, but hospitals are also dealing with a shortage of staff that makes it difficult to treat people.

“Humpty Dumpty is falling off a 30-story building and there is no parachute and there is no safety net,” Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said. “We’re entering a time when people with and without COVID are going to get seriously hurt and may well die.”

Gov. Andy Beshear said 21 hospitals in Kentucky face critical staffing shortages, and many are putting a pause on non-emergency procedures.

“This is how hospital systems make money, and they need to make money to stay open, expand, to do things,” he said. “If they are canceling this, it shows that it is that bad.”

COVID-19 patients have filled up several hospitals in Lexington, pushing them to their limits.

“A lot of the patients that we’re seeing are really, really ill,” said Dr. David Dougherty with Baptist Health Lexington. “And I’d like to stress that this is affecting younger people, it seems to be, a lot more than the original strain.”

And most of the people in the hospital — 90% according to the governor’s office— are unvaccinated, meaning the solution to this problem is simple: get your shots.

“Because otherwise, people are getting sick, we’re putting them on ventilators, we’re putting them in the ICUs, we are stopping up the system,” said Dr. Dan Rodrigue with CHI Saint Joseph Health. “And if we don’t do something in the whole system, from all of us on a public health standpoint, it’s not that easy to fix.”

The Kentucky Hospital Association reports about a third of all hospital and ICU beds in the state are available, but Beshear said it doesn’t mean anything if there aren’t nurses and doctors to staff them.  

“And again, a bed without a medical professional is just a bed,” he said. “That is not treatment.”

As of Thursday’s report, 481 people in Kentucky are in the ICU with COVID-19, and 242 are on ventilators. 1,708 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, which is also near a record for the Commonwealth.