Baptist Health Madisonville has witnessed a 40% increase in COVID-19 positive tests in recent weeks.

“We know from experience that hospitalizations and, unfortunately, deaths tend to follow these positive test results,” said Kristy Quinn, marketing and public relations coordinator for the hospital.

Quinn and the staff at Baptist Health anticipate a couple of tough weeks ahead as they work through the cases following the anticipated Christmas and New Year holidays.

As of Tuesday, Baptist Health had given over 900 of their 975 vaccines, said Quinn. The first vaccine recipients will begin receiving their second dose today.

The hospital has completed tier 1A for all the employees who have expressed an interest in receiving the vaccine, and they are working with the Hopkins County Health Department to complete tier 1B.

“We have been able to work through the tier 1 vaccines faster than anticipated and are very hopeful that we will be able to get the vaccine into the next tiers and general population sooner than originally anticipated,” she said.

Quinn said the hospital was originally not expecting to offer the vaccine to people outside the first two tiers until spring, but are now making plans and evaluating processes to reach the community in the coming weeks.

According the health department, tier 1A means long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and health care personnel. Tier 1B are first responders, any one 70 years old or above and k-12 school personnel.

Tier 1C is anyone 60 years old or above, anyone over the age of 16 with high risk conditions and all essential workers. According to the health department, once tier 1C is completed the next tier would be tier 2 for anyone 40 years old or above, tier 3 is anyone aged 16 or above and tier 4 is children under the age of 16 — if the vaccine is approved for the age group.

Quinn encouraged the community to continue wearing masks, practicing hand hygiene and not to gather in groups outside of your household until the level of community spread lowers significantly.

“These small group gatherings are a big source of spread right now,” she said.

The next few weeks will be difficult, but with the vaccines, antibody treatments and other new medications, there is hope on the horizon, she said.

The state is continuing to update the guidance to accomplish vaccine distribution and Quinn encourages the community to be patient.

“We do have to work with a limited supply and a great demand, but we are very encouraged by the communications that we are receiving,” she said.

Though hospitals in the surrounding areas are having to divert patients due to a lack of beds, Quinn said Baptist Health is not diverting to other facilities. The hospital will take patients from other facilities if they meet the transfer criteria and if they can offer a higher level of care.

On Tuesday, Baptist Health reported 35 COVID-19 positive patients in the hospital, with 10 patients in the Critical Care Unit. COVID-19 patients make up 26% of the hospital’s total patient population, said Quinn.

The Hopkins County Health Department reported 59 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday with 924 active cases in the county. There are 1,876 recovered COVID-19 patients and have been 105 deaths.