LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On Sunday, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced that Kentucky had its highest one-day total of coronavirus cases reported with 979 new cases. However, two Louisville hospitals, Norton Healthcare and UofL Hospital, have yet to see a spike in hospitalizations related to the virus.
“There’s a lot more activity, and with activity, you are going to see more opportunities for transmission for sure,” said Dr. Paul Schulz, an infectious diseases specialist at Norton Healthcare.
A look at the CDC map of COVID-19 cases around the U.S. shows where Kentucky stands compared to other states. On July 11, 2020, the bluegrass state had 19,121 cases. Now, less than two weeks later, more than 4,000 new cases have been added for a total of 23,414 coronavirus cases in Kentucky as of Monday.
Dr. Schulz said the rise in cases has not resulted in more hospitalizations at Norton Healthcare in Louisville.
“I don’t think it’s a 1-1 [ratio], if you will, reflection and probably that represents more outpatient testing. So we have more people that are getting as outpatients, testing positive,” Dr. Schulz told Spectrum News 1.
Dr. Jason Smith with UofL Hospital said overall total COVID-19 patient admissions have been about the same throughout this past month. He thinks it’s because people in their 20s to 40s are the ones with an increased number of positive COVID-19 cases in Kentucky.
“They are out and about and doing more and exposed to the disease more, and while we have had some case of them being hospitalized, they have a much lower risk of needing hospitalized care for this disease than patients that are older," he said.￼
However, since the incubation period of COVID-19 takes two to 14 days for symptoms to show up, according to the CDC, both doctors said an increase in hospitalizations may come later. With hindsight from March and April 2020, both hospitals have new protocols in place in case there is a surge in new COVID-19 patients.
However, Dr. Smith said he doesn’t think one can ever feel completely prepared for anything like this.
“I will tell you I don’t have any concerns around ventilators, or beds, or personal protective equipment like I did early on in this. We have been able to identify and get more of this equipment,” Dr. Smith said. “I think if things kind of get out of control like they did early on in New York, or like they are getting in Texas and Florida, there are always concerns when we start seeing you know 90 to 100 percent capacity of a hospital, even the best of circumstances. That makes caring for everybody in that facility difficult."
Both doctors have no doubt that more positive cases are on the way, and if an increase in patients follows, a top concern is hospital staff.
“I talked to one of my colleagues over the weekend who had been on the frontlines. I think he worked 80 or 90 days in a row, and there’s a lot of people like that out there delivering care in one of the more dangerous situations that we’ve had, in my experience in terms of being a frontline healthcare worker,” Dr. Schulz explained. "My biggest concern is that any pandemic like this will affect our own staff at the hospitals to a similar effect that it will affect community, and we need to keep them in a regiment of testing and protecting them as much as possible so that we can maintain our ability to care for individuals."
Dr. Smith agreed with Beshear’s statement Sunday that the rise in cases is a "wake-up call."
“I think in order for us to maintain our ability to go out into the community and do things, we have to take responsibility for those actions, and, if we don’t, I think we are going to get back to a situation that we saw early on in April when things were starting to be shut back down," he said.
Both doctors reminded everyone to follow CDC guidelines, especially by wearing a face mask in public since most of Kentucky is now reopened.