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The Commonwealth

Lexington hospitals urge vaccinations and masking as COVID-19 patients again drive hospitalizations

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Corinne Boyer
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Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington.

On the heels of Kentucky’s highest positivity rate and its single highest day of COVID-19 cases, Lexington-area hospitals warn that capacity may again become strained.

“We are locally seeing an increase in the number of hospitalizations over the last couple of weeks,” said Dr. David Dougherty with Baptist Health Lexington.

Most hospitalized patients are unvaccinated—that includes pediatric patients at Kentucky Children’s Hospital

“Our most severe cases in Kentucky Children's Hospital have been unvaccinated that have been eligible for it,” said Dr. Lindsay Ragsdale, interim chief medical officer. “I think that's the heartbreaking part of this is we can help prevent severe infections in kids.”

Throughout the pandemic, more hospitalizations require more staff and resources. The latest surge is no exception as Baptist Health Lexington will again begin postponing and rescheduling inpatient elective surgeries this week.

“We're prioritizing urgent and emergent cases, and that's for inpatients. We're still doing outpatient elective surgeries,” Dougherty said.

From what doctors have seen, Omicron infections in vaccinated people seem to be less severe. But that’s not the case for unvaccinated people.

“It hits patients who are not vaccinated harder than it does patients who are vaccinated,” said Dr. Dan Goulson, chief medical officer, at CHI Saint Joseph Health.

Montgomery-Yates said people hospitalized with omicron who are unvaccinated are still experiencing severe disease.

“A certain percentage of the unvaccinated population wind up in the hospital and on ventilators and in the ICU, and perhaps not even in existence anymore, right?” she said. “We were burying people every day still in their 30s 40s 50s from a disease that's pretty preventable from a vaccine.”

As students head back to classrooms, Dr. Ragsdale said masking and vaccinations are a must, especially to protect children under 5.

“So we really want our community, please, step up,” Ragsdale said. “We really want everyone to try to get vaccinated so that we can protect the people, including the youngest of our population that are not eligible yet for vaccines.”

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