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West Virginia earlier this month matched the prior pandemic peak of 818 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state.

HUNTINGTON — Ashland doctors implored Kentuckians to get the vaccine Thursday as they shared their firsthand experiences of battling the pandemic.

“Within the last month or so, we’ve been seeing 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds and 50-year-olds come in and within 24 to 48 hours they die,” Dr. Traci Sanchez, with King’s Daughters Medical Center, said in a release from the state. “Families are angry. They’re lost. Patients are lost because they know they’re dying. It’s hard to tell someone who is 40 years old that they’re going to be dead within 24 hours and there’s nothing we can do.”

From March 2020 to May 2021, before the delta variant was dominant in the United States, 74% of COVID-19 deaths in Kentucky were among those 70 and older and 98% were among those 50 and older. From June 2021 to Sept. 15, 2021, once the delta variant became dominant, the share of younger COVID-19 patients dying increased significantly. During that time, 48% of COVID-19 deaths in Kentucky were among those 70 and older and 88% were among those 50 and older.

“I’ve been in codes not just for people my age, but my kid’s age. I think that when you see that, you really think, and it really scares us about going forward,” said Dr. James Goetz, KDMC. “I just ask everyone out there to get vaccinated and help all of us here.”

“We have seen significant changes this week alone. We have been concerned about our oxygen pressure and being able to support all of the oxygen BiPAP and ventilators for these COVID patients. We have had to order 10 additional ventilators this week, and we’ve had to cancel all elective surgeries to be able to staff our COVID units, ICU units and the rest of our floors,” said Dr. Stacy Caudill, chief medical officer, KDMC. “We’ve seen an overwhelming volume of patients in our emergency department and in our urgent care. We have seen our positivity continue to increase, which tells us in a couple of weeks our admissions are only going to go up.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state is supporting hospitals in the fight against COVID-19 with expanded personnel and testing assistance, as health care professionals sound the alarm on the delta variant’s threat, even to young Kentuckians.

“The No. 1 thing that we can do to get through this is to get vaccinated,” Beshear said, according to a release. “I think the tough conversations we’re having with those we love who may be hesitant to get the vaccine are making a difference, but we need a lot more of those conversations.”

As of Thursday, Kentucky had 93 total adult intensive care unit beds left. Of 96 Kentucky hospitals, 66 are experiencing critical staffing shortages.

The governor said more than two dozen hospitals, including Pikeville Medical Center, are receiving or soon will receive Kentucky National Guard support.

Breaking records

Hospitalizations in West Virginia have hit pandemic highs this week as well. According to the state dashboard, 893 West Virginians are hospitalized (84% unvaccinated), 275 (90.9% unvaccinated) are in intensive care and 160 (93.1% unvaccinated) are on ventilators.

There were 2,135 new positive cases of COVID-19 and 17 new deaths reported Thursday.

Winners in the “Do it for Babydog” vaccination sweepstakes were also announced, and Gov. Jim Justice and Babydog surprised Hurricane High School student Livvi Miller with a full-ride college scholarship in front of her parents and classmates, teachers and administrators at the school, along with the county superintendent and other leaders from Putnam County Schools.

The scholarship to any public college or university in the state includes room and board, tuition and books, according to a release. The prize is valued at more than $100,000.

Other regional winners included LeAnne Call, of Hurricane, and Jimmy Tincher, of Huntington, who both won Marshall University football/basketball season ticket packages.

All West Virginians who have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can register at for an opportunity to win.

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