HAZARD, Kentucky — Outside a former Kmart on an Appalachian hillside, a line of cars wound toward white parking-lot tents for COVID-19 tests, which have seen skyrocketing demand in the last few weeks.
Inside the busy shopping mall-turned-medical clinic, residents waited for appointments and picked up medications. In one room, patients received antibody infusions to blunt the impact of a virus that has surged sharply in the region.
In recent weeks, Perry and several other Eastern Kentucky counties have posted some of the nation’s top-10 highest rates of COVID-19, according to a New York Times database.
With a needle in her arm, Kathy Barnett, 67, said she contracted COVID after deciding against getting a vaccination. She’d just battled a heart attack when the virus hit. As she sat in one of a line of recliners, a nurse tended to her infusion fluid drip.
“It never stops. We’re open 13 hours most days, and it never ends,” said nurse Katie Cornett, adding that patients tend to show up sicker with the delta variant. “We have to send a lot to the hospital, unfortunately.”
In a rural and vulnerable Appalachian region,the disease has filled hospital beds, sparked new calls for vaccinations and increased demand for testing and treatment.
At the Primary Care Centers of Eastern Kentucky clinic in Hazard — just one snapshot of how the surge is playing out here — health care providers on Monday were hustling to meet demand and care for ailing patients. Read more…