Jennie Stuart COVID-19 occupancy dips to lowest level since October

It's the first time in four months that the hospital's stress level due to the pandemic had been considered "low."

This story is part of an occasional series from Hoptown Chronicle about how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting Jennie Stuart Medical Center. See more coverage.

COVID-19 hospitalizations at Jennie Stuart Medical Center last week reached the lowest levels since October, according to newly released federal data.

From Feb. 12 to 18, an average of 8% of inpatient beds at the Hopkinsville hospital were occupied by patients with coronavirus. The percentage was down from 11% the week before.

Last week’s ratio represents approximately nine hospitalized coronavirus patients per day.

According to a framework established by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, anything between 5% and 9% indicates a hospital is under “low stress.” Anything between 10% and 19% is considered “high stress.” A ratio of 20% or higher — where Jennie Stuart’s was for nearly all of January and December and most of November — indicates “extreme stress.”

Because COVID-19 patients require more resources than typical patients and are often sicker, coronavirus admissions can predict the level of strain on a hospital, according to health experts.

According to federal data, the week of Feb. 12 was the first time since October that the hospital’s stress level due to the pandemic was considered “low.”

The percentage has continued to fall since reaching a record high of 31% during the first two weeks of January.

In December, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began releasing hospital capacity numbers to provide a view of how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting hospitals and local communities across the country. Hoptown Chronicle has reported the data ever since in an effort to help the community understand the pressure COVID-19 has placed on the community’s hospital.

On Friday — a day after the most recent federal reporting period ended — nine patients at Jennie Stuart were hospitalized with coronavirus, according to spokeswoman Selina Staub.

Patient counts provided by the hospital and HHS don’t include COVID-positive individuals who receive treatment in the hospital’s emergency department, physicians’ offices or urgent care.

Coronavirus occupancy in ICU also down

During the last two reporting weeks, the average number of COVID-19 patients in Jennie Stuart’s intensive care unit was less than four, according to the HHS data. Due to privacy concerns, specific totals less than four are not provided.

Coronavirus occupancy in the ICU was the highest during the first two weeks of October, when more than 90% of ICU beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to the data.

The ICU saw another peak during the first two weeks of January, when levels were above 60%. According to IHME’s framework, an ICU is considered to be under “extreme stress” if at least 60% of beds are occupied by patients being treated for coronavirus.

julia hunter headshot

Julia Hunter | Hoptown Chronicle

Julia Hunter is co-founder and engagement editor of Hoptown Chronicle. She began her journalism career as a reporter and news editor at the Kentucky New Era and now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she serves as the membership & communications director for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Reach her at julia@hoptownchronicle.org and find her on Twitter at @JuliaMHunter.