ROCKCASTLE COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — A recent report from the New York Times revealed Rockcastle County has one of the highest COVID case rates in the nation.
LEX18 visited the county to see what that looks like on the ground.
Inside Rockcastle Regional Hospital, the pandemic is overwhelming staff and devastating families.
"It's been trying," Dr. David Bullock, who treats COVID-19 patients, said. "It's been very emotional for the nurses and emotional for the doctors and emotional for the families."
He said the 4-bed ICU has been at capacity for at least a month. They also outgrew their inpatient COVID unit and had to add beds to another part of the hospital.
"It's been hard to make sure everyone gets the care they need with limited resources," he said.
To help in that area, reinforcements were brought in on Monday.
Ten National Guard members will be there for at least a month to lighten the load.
They're helping with nonclinical work such as, transporting patients, directing traffic for drive-through testing, helping with screening, janitorial support, and putting together respiratory therapy kits.
"I'm just glad that in my position that I am currently in I can get another nurse out there helping COVID patients as quickly as they possibly can," one National Guard member said.
Dr. Bullock said he's thankful for them, but frustrated that it's come to this point. He believes a lot of the pain and suffering could have been prevented if more people got the vaccine.
He said of the 183 COVID-19 admissions they've seen since the pandemic started, three were vaccinated.
"I feel like we could be saving lives, keeping people out of the hospital and this whole situation would be a lot better if everyone would get the vaccine," Dr. Bullock said.
The superintendent of Rockcastle County Schools is also pushing for vaccination.
Right now the state reports only 35% of those 12 and older in the county have gotten the shot.
"I would really like to see that grow because if that vaccination rate can grow then that means we have a better chance of staying in school in person and providing the education to students that they deserve," Superintendent Carrie Ballinger said.
She's also pushing for the Board to continue the District's mask mandate in their meeting Tuesday night.
Starting tomorrow they're implementing the "test to stay" program.
Students who have been in close contact with a positive case will be tested daily, with parental consent, for five days. If they test negative the can stay in school, rather than quarantining. If they test positive, they must isolate at home.
"We're closely monitoring all of those close contacts and ensuring that we're not putting anyone in jeopardy while at the same time we're allowing in-person instruction to take place," she said.
She said achieving that balance is their priority, but it'll take a community effort.