National Guard mobilized to offset hospital strain

Click here to watch the Sept. 13, 2021, COVID-19 press conference.

In efforts to help offset the strain placed onto hospitals dealing with large amounts of COVID-19 patients throughout the commonwealth, Kentucky National Guardsmen have been mobilized to assist at various locations, including Harlan ARH and Middlesboro ARH hospitals.

The Guard will be assisting with non-clinical functions to allow hospital staff the ability to focus on better patient care. In total, 310 additional Guardsmen were sent to support 21 hospitals throughout Kentucky.

“In coordination with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, we’ve now mobilized more than 400 soldiers and airmen to help provide logistical and administrative support to 25 hospitals across the commonwealth,” said Brig. Gen. Bryan Howay, director of the joint staff, Kentucky National Guard. “Supporting this critical mission impacts our service members as well since we’re part of the same communities we’re assisting. While our mission is temporary, it serves to highlight the importance of wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and most importantly, getting vaccinated.”

During a press conference Monday night, also available for viewing on the Enterprise Facebook page, Harlan ARH Dr. Robin Magnani said the Guard members will be helping with transporting patients, housekeeping, dietary and other non-clinical roles not involving direct patient care.

Locals said in a Facebook poll on the Enterprise’s page that they are thankful for the National Guard’s involvement with the hospital staff and are grateful for its help in supporting the health of their communities.

Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said as the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to spread, Harlan County has recorded its single-highest weekly case total since the pandemic began for the third-consecutive week, reporting 292 new cases last week and totaling 780 new cases in those three weeks alone.

The county’s all-time case count stands at 4, 195 as of Monday, with 426 active cases. Officials are reporting this as the highest amount of active cases at any point during the pandemic in Harlan County.

There are currently 25 locals hospitalized with the virus at five different hospitals, eight of which are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Approximately 2,900 Harlan Countians have recovered from the virus.

Mosley said during August, 642 cases were reported, of which 588 were unvaccinated individuals or 91.6 percent. Eight of the nine deaths were also unvaccinated, with the only other death a vaccinated sick elderly patient in long-term care.

10 of the 642 cases were re-infections and were people who had previously had COVID-19 more than 90 days ago but had not been vaccinated.

The death total currently stands at 108.

“There will be additional deaths announced in the coming days by the health department. I am personally aware of six since Friday,” he said. “Please remember these families in your prayers as they grieve the loss of their loved ones. Our mortality rate is 2.57 percent, currently.”

COVID-19 vaccines are available for anyone 12 and older in Harlan County.

Vaccines are available at Harlan ARH, Daniel Boone Clinic, Dr. Dahhan’s office, MCHC in Harlan and Cumberland, Donell’s Pharmacy, Walgreens, the Harlan County Health Department, Clover Fork Clinic in Harlan and Evarts, Tri-City ARH Clinic, Food City and Wal-Mart.

Locals in need of transportation to get a vaccine are instructed to call 606-573-5335 to speak with Harlan County CAA.

More than 2.6 million people in Kentucky have received at least one dose of the vaccine. So far, 2,618,081 people have received at least a first dose of the vaccine in Kentucky. This represents 59 percent of the entire state population that has been vaccinated.

“In Harlan County, as of today (Monday), 10,955 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, up 659 from last Monday, one of the largest weekly increases since the vaccine became available,” Mosley said. “That represents 42.12 percent of the entire population. 10,511 have been people 18 and older. 3,476 of the total vaccinated have been people 65 and older.”

Harlan County remains in the red category on the state incidence map and continues to climb.

“Our incidence rate is 175.2, as of Monday. This is the fourth highest incidence rate in Kentucky. 10 of the 11 top rates in Kentucky are in eastern Kentucky. On Friday, Perry County had the highest incidence rate in the nation,” he said.

The state reported 2,426 new cases in Kentucky on Monday, with a death total of 8,071. The state’s positivity rate is 13.70 percent as of Monday.

The United States death toll from COVID-19 is now over 648,900, up nearly 12,400 people since last Monday.

“I will provide another comprehensive update next Monday evening. As always, you can refer to the Harlan County Health Department page for the daily case numbers,” Mosley said. “Please remember to keep folks dealing with this virus in your thoughts and prayers.”