Elected officials and health leaders in McCracken County held a virtual conference Thursday urging communities to take the pandemic seriously amid rising coronavirus cases and increased demand on hospital resources as the holiday season approaches.
Paducah-McCracken County Office of Emergency Management Director Jerome Mansfield opened the virtual COVID-19 briefing, noting the rising number of cases within the county and uncertainty for the future. Mansfield said the actions of the community were just as important as the recent medical advancements.
“Each day, the uncertainty of the virus affects everything we do. But as we have done in previous crisis events, we must counter the uncertainty with hope,” he said. “We hear a lot about following the science, but the science must be accompanied by our compassion for one another, best expressed with taking the familiar, basic protective measures.”
Mercy Health-Lourdes’ Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Jenny Franke said COVID-19 cases have surged within hospitals. She said patients of all age ranges have contracted the virus, leading to an increased need for resources.
“In the last three months, we have seen the number of COVID-positive patients hospitalized at Lourdes, triple. At this point in time, over a third of those patients are requiring a critical care bed, and about 75% of those are on a ventilator.”
Franke noted non-COVID illnesses were also on the rise, due in part because services such as ambulatory offices were closed during the pandemic. She said people with non-COVID issues ended up staying home without seeking medical care.
“We are working very hard to accommodate patients who have COVID and are ill with this pandemic, as well as those that have other problems.”
Franke also announced Mercy Health-Lourdes’ housing and distribution plan for the coronavirus vaccine once it is released. She said Mercy Health-Lourdes’ parent organization, Bon Secours Mercy Health, purchased a freezer capable of storing the vaccine.
“We are prepared to store enough vaccines for our associates, our patients, and others in the community that might need it.” she said.
Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless announced City Hall, along with other city buildings, would close on Friday, Nov. 20 following Gov. Beshear’s recent guidelines on office-based buildings. She also urged for people to rethink Thanksgiving plans, as it could cause another surge in coronavirus cases.
“I think it’s easy for us as community members who are not in healthcare or public health to not quite understand what’s truly going on right now in our community and in our commonwealth,” she said. “Thanksgiving could be a super-spreader.”
McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Cylmer said the community needs to renew and strengthen its resolve, especially with the news of vaccines. He urged people to continue wearing masks and social distancing.
“We’re right around the corner of getting some relief here, but we gotta have our guard up,” he said.
McCracken County is one of 112 counties in Kentucky considered a red-zone county with critical COVID-19 spread.