A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

NKY experiencing dramatic COVID surge, hospital admissions up; your mandate: WEAR THE MASK

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune editor

As COVID cases climb to record levels in Northern Kentucky, the urgent message is: Wear masks, social distance and stay at home as much as possible.

This is how the region can help slow the contagion, show personal responsibility, and help keep our neighbors safe.

Hospitalizations continue to surge as health experts see the increase of community spread.

Dr. Dan Horn, Chief Quality Officer for St. Elizabeth Health care and an emergency physician, puts the challenge in perspective.

“Five weeks ago the region had a positivity rate of 5%. Today the positivity rate is 18%,” he said.

There are 170 COVID hospitalizations — and growing — at St. Elizabeth in Fort Thomas, which is the highest number yet. St. E. is now preparing the Florence facility for the surge.

Dr. Horn says if people don’t follow the safety guidelines, the Florence facility will be full within the next five weeks.

St. Elizabeth is prepared. Any room can be turned into an ICU room and the facilities’ ventilation systems have been retrofitted so that air does not circulate from one room to another. Health care providers have plenty of PPE.

But, it’s up to the general public to make sure the spread is tamped down. In the spring, Dr. Horn said, very few people knew someone who had been touched by the virus. The fall and winter will be different, however, as “far more of us will be touched by it.”

He hopes we can convince the public that “It’s not about you, and you should wear your mask out of respect for the community.”

St. Elizabeth Healthcare is one of hundreds of the nation’s top healthcare systems, representing thousands of hospitals in communities across the country, urging Americans to mask up. They are emphasizing that wearing a facemask is our best chance at slowing the surging COVID pandemic now.

The next few months are critical, though there has been positive news about vaccine development, no one knows when those vaccines will be ready for widespread use.

More than 11.5 million Americans — and growing — have tested positive for the virus, including an additional one million last week, and nearly 250,000 have died.

The hospital collaborative involves a national public service message campaign that says, “The science has not changed. Masks slow the spread of COVID-19. So please join us as we all embrace this simple ask: Wear. Care. Share with #MaskUp. Together, wearing is caring. And together, we are saving lives.”

The collaborative includes, in addition to St. Elizabeth, the Children’s Hospital Medical Center, TriHealth, UC Health, and the Christ Hospital Health Network. See the full list here.

The CDC says that wearing facemasks protects in key ways: by protecting the wearer against inhalation of harmful pathogens and particulates and by preventing exposure of that around the wearer.

In addition to masking, the CDC suggests that everyone minimize the number of non-household contacts, maintain a physical distance of at least six feet, and limit time around others, especially indoors and in poorly ventilated areas.

Click the image to learn more about masks.

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