FEMA strike teams, Kentucky National Guard assisting hospitals as COVID-19 cases surge

Gov. Beshear updated Kentuckians on the status of FEMA strike teams his administration has...
Gov. Beshear updated Kentuckians on the status of FEMA strike teams his administration has requested or will request soon to assist strained Kentucky hospitals.(AP)
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 2:55 PM CDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. - On Thursday during his weekly Team Kentucky update, Gov. Andy Beshear said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) strike teams and Kentucky National Guard members are assisting Kentucky hospitals in need during the surge of COVID-19 cases sparked by the delta variant.

“With hospital staff and resources stretched thin, we need this additional help, and we thank all those serving on the front lines,” said Gov. Beshear.

He added: “Kentucky’s brave National Guard members have stood up to fight this virus since the beginning. From helping with testing efforts, to administering vaccines and now helping our health care heroes, their dedication to the people of the commonwealth has undoubtedly made a difference.”

Kentucky health care heroes shared their experiences in two of the state’s hospitals, emphasizing their need for additional support.

“Without a doubt, cases of COVID-19 have increased significantly in our hospital and our community. Like every other health care facility in Kentucky, Lake Cumberland is operating at the very edge of our capacity,” said Dr. Ted Qualls, emergency medicine physician at Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital. “Our team has been working tirelessly to care for our community, and we ask that the community please be patient and understanding as we work to respond to this surge with all of our available resources. Vaccination is the primary way we will avoid further overwhelming the health care system here at home, in our region and across the state.”

“I hear a lot that children aren’t getting affected by COVID. That’s no longer true,” said Dr. Beth Brooks, pediatrics, T.J. Regional Health in Glasgow. “Right now, they’re getting just as sick as adults. They’re ending up in the same ICUs. They’re on ventilators. They are getting treated the best we can, but they are getting sick.”

Gov. Beshear said three FEMA Emergency Medical Services (EMS) strike teams are onsite in Kentucky tasked with transfers and transporting COVID-19 patients. The EMS strike teams are being managed by the Kentucky Board of Emergency Management Services (KBEMS) through American Medical Response.

Each team is comprised of five advanced life support ambulances and each ambulance is staffed with one paramedic and one emergency medical technician (EMT). Each strike team is positioned regionally, in Somerset, Prestonsburg and Louisville. They are centrally dispatched and can respond to any area in the state.

The Governor said a resource request form will soon be submitted to FEMA seeking two monoclonal COVID-19 antibody injection teams to administer the antibodies subcutaneously (applied under the skin, rather than through an infusion) to Kentuckians infected with the virus.

Gov. Beshear said two long-term care nurse strike teams are being developed by the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s Healthcare-Associated Infections program.

The Governor said as Kentucky hospitals continue to face challenges from the surge of the COVID-19 delta variant, his administration is working to ensure they have the support they need.

In total, 105 Kentucky National Guardsmen have been deployed for a new COVID-19 response mission, in seven teams of 15. So far, hospitals that have received Kentucky National Guard assistance include: St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, Appalachian Regional Healthcare in Hazard, The Medical Center at Bowling Green and Pikeville Medical Center.

“We are pleased to have the temporary assistance of 30 members of the National Guard who arrived at the Medical Center at Bowling Green Aug. 31. These men and women are serving in various general, non-clinical and non-administrative capacities throughout our facility. Their assistance and service is much appreciated and will offer relief to our staff. We are so very grateful,” The Medical Center at Bowling Green leadership team said in a statement.