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With Surging COVID-19 Infections, Ephraim McDowell Health Official Begs Public To Get Vaccinated

The Harrodsburg Herald/Robert Moore
Regina Rice, BSN RN FCN, vaccinates Bruce Nichols,  on Tuesday, Feb. 2, when Ephraim McDowell Health opened its Regional Vaccination Center. Hospital officials, facing a growing surge in infections, are asking the public to get vaccinated.

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

Medical officials are begging the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Monday, Aug. 23, Steve Haines, the nursing director of critical care services at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville, was one of several medical officials who appeared during Gov. Andy Beshear’s press conference.

“It’s been pretty horrific,” said Haines. At times during the broadcast, Haines was overcome with emotion. He said they had lost eight people within 24 hours. He said the morgue at the medical center only has room for three people.

“The funeral homes couldn’t pick them up fast enough,” Haines said.

According to the Mercer County Health Department’s most recent report, only 44 percent of adults over the age of 18 have been fully vaccinated. Many cite safety concerns as their reason for not getting vaccinated. On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19  vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization, including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in some people with compromised immune systems.

So far, approximately 189.9 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received 6,207 reports of people who had died after receiving a COVID vaccine between Dec. 14, 2020 and July 19, 2021. However, healthcare providers are required to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause.

So far, more than 629,739 Americans have been killed by COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

But numbers can only tell so much of a story. On Monday, Haines described what COVID-19 patients can go through.

“They just can’t breathe,” Haines said. He said 95 patients have been intubated.  Those who suffer the worst are also attacked by blood clots, with some suffering strokes.

“It’s a horrible disease,” Haines said.

He said during the earlier surge in infections, the hospital had time to prepare.

“We had time to be ready for it,” Haines said.

But the new surge, which is powered by the Delta variant, which officials say is far more infectious than previous variants, has spread much faster.

“We were immediately overwhelmed,” Haines said.

He said staff have to fill rooms within minutes of patients dying.

McDowell is not the only hospital in the state struggling to handle the surge in infections. Starting Sept. 1, the Kentucky National Guard will provide support to hospitals, health departments and food banks, with  five teams of 15 people deployed  to Pikeville Medical Center, the Medical Center at Bowling Green and St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead.

No personnel have been assigned to any of McDowell’s locations so far. Haines implored those who have not been vaccinated to do so.

“It looks like there’s no end,” Haines said. “The only chance we have is vaccination.”

The Mercer County Health Department offers vaccinations against COVID-19 every Wednesday.  The department offers Pfizer and Moderna, which both require two doses, and Johnson & Johnson, which requires one dose, available. There is no cost to receive be vaccinated. Appointments can be scheduled online at  Call 859-734-4522 for more information.

Kentucky Case Information as of Aug. 23
New Cases: 4,638 (1,335 in  people 18 and under)
Positivity Rate: 12.89%
Hospitalizations: 2,014
Intensive Care Admittances: 589
On Ventilators: 338
Mercer County Case Information as of Aug. 24
New Cases: 32
Hospitalizations: 10
Active Cases: 249
Deaths (total): 57
7 Day Average Case Count: 22
State information: Kentucky Department of Health. Mercer County information: Mercer County Health Department.

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