Kentucky's backroad churches may be key to saving hospitals overwhelmed by COVID

By |2021-10-17T07:20:29-04:00October 17th, 2021|Uncategorized|

Enlarge this image Pastor Billy Joe Lewis was all in favor when a local health worker suggested a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in the parking lot of his church in Smilax, Ky. "We've still got to use common sense," Lewis says. "Anything that can ward off suffering and death, I think, is a wonderful thing." Jessica Tezak for KHN Jessica Tezak for KHN In the end it was the delta variant that drove Rose Mitchell, 89, down the winding mountain road in Smilax, Ky., to the Full Gospel Church of Jesus Christ to get the shot. Her pastor, Billy Joe Lewis, had told his congregation that, No, ma'am, a COVID-19 vaccine would not leave the "mark of the beast" nor rewrite their genetic codes. Mitchell, who has known the deaths of eight of her 13 children over the years, was done taking chances with the virus stealing up the valleys along Cutshin Creek. "That stuff's getting so bad, I was afraid to not take it," she says, sitting in her daughter's car in the church parking lot. "I said, 'Well, if all the rest of them are going to take it, I'll take it too.' " Kentucky is in the midst of a COVID-19 wildfire that is sparing no part of the state; new case counts topped 4,000 a day for much of September, before easing somewhat this month. Hospital intensive care units are still at capacity in some regions, with COVID-19 patients occupying half the beds. Gov. Andy Beshear has called the situation "dire."