FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Gov. Andy Beshear addressed Kentuckians on Tuesday, saying we are 'rapidly approaching critical' in terms of the COVID-19 situation.
In fact, Beshear fears we could have more Kentuckians in the hospital later this week than we've had at any other point in the pandemic.
"The situation is serious and alarming and we are rapidly approaching critical," Beshear said.
In the latest report released Tuesday afternoon, 1,603 COVID-positive Kentuckians are hospitalized. 441 patients are in the ICU and 238 are currently on a ventilator.
He says the recent increases are putting an intense strain on the hospital systems across the commonwealth.
"Folks, we've lost 74 hundred people," he said. "So, me right now saying we are experiencing right now the most rapid rise in cases, ought to alarm everybody."
On Tuesday alone, another 3,276 COVID-19 cases were reported, along with seven more deaths. The positivity rate is up to 12.47%.
Several of the charts shown on Tuesday indicate a steep increase in the number of cases this week. Beshear says this week is the third-highest week of positive cases throughout the pandemic.
"By the end of this week, expect to have more Kentuckians in the hospital battling COVID, than at any point in this pandemic," he said.
He says that is the same for the number of occupied ICU beds. Beshear stressed the importance of also having tough conversations with those who haven't been vaccinated, especially those older than 65.
"It's you their family member, or their friend, saying that you love them, and that you care about them, and that you're willing to even lose that friendship and that relationship if it means having that hard conversation to get them vaccinated," Beshear said.
Kentucky's Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack also said it's more important to stop spreading misinformation.
"People who are going out there and saying false and demonstrably inaccurate information about the utility and value of masks and the safety and importance of vaccinations to prevent this disease are killing people," Stack said.
One commonly asked topic has been about a third dose of the vaccine. Stack says those in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are eligible.
"We are determining that all of these individuals in a nursing home are going to be eligible for vaccination for a third dose and will be offered a third dose," Stack said. "And that is already underway and beginning."
Given the severity of the delta variant and the rising number of cases, hospitalizations, and the concern over ICU bed capacities, Beshear also outlined where he stands on issuing any other sort of requirements.
"At this time, those steps certainly wouldn't include any form of shut down because vaccines plus masks - we can be fine," he said. "It does not currently include any type of capacity restrictions."
As for any sort of statewide mask mandate --
"We're going to have to very carefully consider and continue to evaluate whether or not we need to bring back a statewide mask mandate," Beshear said. "That's where we are. That has to at least be a part of the conversation because if we run out of beds for people, I mean if we run out of beds for people who are injured or sick or have a heart attack, don't we have to do something?"