Kentucky medical experts mark official end of COVID-19 public health emergency

Kentucky medical experts mark official end of COVID-19 public health emergency
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 11:51 AM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Medical experts from across Lexington’s health care system came together Thursday to mark the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

It comes more than three years after the federal government first made the declaration.

Dr. Mark Dougherty with Baptist Health says there has been an ongoing shift from COVID-19 being seen as a pandemic to becoming endemic in our society.

As the threat of COVID-19 we once knew fades and the emergency officially ends Dr. Dougherty and others looked back on how far we have come.

The federal government first declared a public health emergency for COVID-19 on January 31, 2020. By March, lockdowns had swept through the country and put some of our fellow Kentuckians like Lexington physician Dr. Jeff Foxx in grave danger.

“I couldn’t move, I was so weak I couldn’t turn over, I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t do anything,” said Dr. Foxx.

He spent a month in the hospital, removed from family and even his nurses, and it seemed people of any background could have met the same fate.

“We used to see martial artists in perfectly good physical condition, going on the ventilator,” said Dr. Dougherty.

However, as time passed, testing systems were developed, vaccines were distributed and therapeutic options like Paxlovid and Remdesivir were found.

Dr. Dougherty says because of that the emergency functionally ended a year ago as hospitals were no longer overwhelmed.

“We’re not seeing the same type of patients we saw before,” Dr. Dougherty said.

Still, the doctors called this emergency life-altering as many lost loved ones, others are still recovering, and some of the ways hospitals operate may be forever changed.

“I don’t think we’re ever not gonna wear masks on our floors that deal with transplant patients or on our floors that are caring for immunocompromised patients because I think we recognize the importance of that,” said Dr. Ashley Montgomery-Yates, CMO of UK Good Samaritan Hospital.

The doctors also warned that COVID-19 is not gone so, as public reporting goes away and the level of testing continues to lessen, it will be up to those in the healthcare field to monitor their hospitals closely and sound the alarm if COVID-19 levels surge in the future.

However, with the resources available to them now, they are confident they can handle it.