FRANKFORT, KY — Kentucky reported its second highest one-day total for new COVID-19 cases Thursday, and 45 additional deaths caused by the illness.
The Kentucky Department for Public Health reported 5,457 new cases Thursday, including 1,774 kids and teens 18 and younger.
The state's positivity rate for COVID-19 test results now stands at 13.29%.
"Sadly today we've broken our record of Kentuckians in the hospital fighting for their lives (because of COVID-19)," Gov. Andy Beshear said in a video message shared to social media Thursday afternoon.
As of Thursday, 2,315 Kentuckians are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 620 in intensive care units and 408 on ventilators.
Kentucky's hospitals are strained because of the ongoing surge spurred on by low vaccination rates and the delta variant.
During his Team Kentucky update earlier Thursday afternoon, Beshear asked those who need a COVID-19 test to go somewhere other than the emergency room to get it.
"What we have seen is so many people coming into an ER or hospital to get tested for COVID," Beshear said. "If you are just needing a COVID test, if you are not very sick, do not go to the emergency room. That clogs up the system for people who are really, really sick or in an emergency."
The governor said partners with the state are helping some hospitals across the state with testing capacity.
"So, what we've done in select hospitals and what we are looking to do in more is we've taken over their testing to again, free up those that were doing it. We've seen if frees up at least four to five folks that can then transition back into the regular hospital and free up multiple beds."
Beshear said the testing company Gravity Diagnostics is helping with those efforts in some hospitals, mainly with the area served by Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville, Kentucky. WildHealth and University of Kentucky are helping with testing in Corbin, Pikeville and Morehead.
Discussing the day's COVID-19 report in the later social media video message, Beshear noted that the deaths reported Thursday included a 46-year-old man from Marshall County, as well as other Kentuckians in their 30s and 40s and a Pike County woman who was just 27 years old.
"For much of this pandemic, some folks have thought this is something that only hurts, sickens or kills older Kentuckians and Americans," Beshear said, indicating that Thursday's report shows that isn't necessarily the case.
"It's time we got really serious. This is the most dangerous that this has ever been, especially to the unvaccinated. If you still have not gotten your vaccine, you are at greater risk for serious illness and death than you have ever been in your life, and one shot can fix all of that," Beshear said. "If you are vaccinated, you are still at risk. You need to wear a mask while you are in public indoors to make sure you're not spreading this. And we have lost people we love and care about that are vaccinated and got a breakthrough case."
Beshear encouraged those who are vaccinated but have unvaccinated loved ones to "have that uncomfortable conversation.
"If someone you love is unvaccinated, again, they are in more danger than they have ever been or they ever will be. And your call, your compassion, the fact that you care enough that you will even risk your relationship to try to get them vaccinated, that will make the difference. Loving our neighbor as ourselves, sacrificing, that true empathy for others is what's guided us through this pandemic thus far. We need even more of it."
So far, 2,542,186 Kentuckians have been vaccinated for COVID-19. That's only about 57% of the total state population.
Since testing began, Kentucky has had 587,414 known COVID-19 cases, including 7,821 lives lost to the illness.