Louisville nurse

A Louisville nurse administers a vaccine. (WDRB file photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The vast majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Louisville area during a surge in local cases aren't vaccinated, hospital officials said Tuesday.

The chief medical officers at UofL Health, Norton Healthcare and Baptist Health also said that while their hospitals aren't full, they are managing staff shortages and other pressures on overall capacity. U of L Health and Baptist have begun to delay some elective surgeries and procedures.  

Overall, there were 311 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Louisville, according to Louisville Metro Public Health & Wellness' dashboard updated at 11 a.m. That's the highest number since February 3, when 313 were in hospitals. 

Since the pandemic began in early 2020, the largest single-day hospital census has been 399 patients on December 2, the city data show. 

The patients now hospitalized represent about 19 percent of all inpatient admissions.

"The system is stressed, but it is far from failing," said Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer at UofL Health. "I think that's the important part to remember is that we're able to manage this right now."

Speaking on a virtual call with reporters, Smith said his hospital has 144 people admitted with COVID-19, which is still lower than its peak of 155. In all, seven of the current patients are vaccinated.

Smith said all of the 40 patients in the intensive care unit are unvaccinated.

At Norton, there are 197 COVID-19 patients, compared with 221 during last December's peak, said Dr. Steve Hester, the hospital system's chief medical officer. About 9 percent (18 patients) are vaccinated, he said.

Hester said the average age of those hospitalized who are vaccinated is 74, and 53 for those who haven't received a vaccine.

"The vaccine will make a difference in this, and it shows that in our hospital numbers," he said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval on Monday of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 and older. Children 12 and older still can receive the vaccine, although those younger than 12 cannot. 

The number of pediatric admissions to Norton Children's Hospital was 10 as of Tuesday, Hester said, or about the same number as the hospital's peak last December. Last week, WDRB News reported that Norton had 13 coronavirus patients. 

Hester said pediatric admissions of COVID-19 cases typically involve children with chronic conditions or illnesses.

Baptist has a higher rate of vaccinated patients who have been admitted with COVID-19, about 25 percent, said Dr. Chuck Anderson, its chief medical officer. While the Louisville hospital's 76 coronavirus patients are below its peak of about 100, he said the system's overall network of nine hospitals in the state have more patients -- about 425 to 430 -- than at any point in the pandemic.

"Backing off of some or delaying some surgeries allowed us to accept more critically ill people from other hospitals," Anderson said. "So we're trying to be that reach-out point to take care of folks as well."

The rate of positive COVID-19 tests in Louisville stands at 13.11 percent, said Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, the associate medical director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. The highest to date was on January 25, when that rate was 14.39 percent. 

Jefferson County remains in the "red zone" for COVID-19, with 60.1 confirmed cases per 100,000 people. Counties with incidence rates of at least 25 cases fall into that category. 

There were 14 coronavirus-related deaths in Louisville last week, according to revised figures released Hartlage. She said two of the deaths were people in their 40s, while another 2 were in their 50s.

On Tuesday, Kentucky reported 4,638 new cases, the fifth-highest single-day total and 17 new deaths while the positivity rate was 12.8%. 

Indiana reported 3,641 new cases and 57 new deaths on Tuesday. The state's positivity rate was 10.8%.

WDRB has asked the department how many of those deaths were among vaccinated people.

This story will be updated.

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