The Kentucky National Guard will offer additional support to the state’s hospitals as the delta variant continues to strain medical resources.

More than 100 National Guard members are currently deployed at four of the state’s hardest-hit hospitals, including St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead. On Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that he is authorizing the deployment of 310 additional National Guard members to assist 21 more hospitals.

Beshear said the Guard will provide logistical and administrative support so health care professions can focus on treating patients.

“This shows that every hospital is bursting at the seams, that they desperately need help and that we are a state full of more seriously sick people than we have ever seen,” he said.

Beshear said some hospitals have also requested basic supplies, such as mattresses and IV poles, so they can create more space for COVID-19 patients. About two-thirds of the state’s hospitals — 60 out of 96 — are reporting critical staffing shortages.

Kentucky reported more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases between Aug. 30 and Sep. 5, a new weekly record. That surge has caused the state to repeatedly break hospitalization records in recent weeks.  As of Wednesday, more than 2,400 Kentuckians were hospitalized with COVID-19. More than 670 were in the ICU, and 431 were on ventilators.

Only 90 adult ICU beds are open in the state. Beshear said that’s the lowest availability of the entire pandemic.

“Our hospital situation has never been more dire in my lifetime than it is right now,” he said. “That means if you get COVID and need to be hospitalized, there has never been a greater likelihood that there is not a bed for you, or your family members or your friends.”

Between 10 and 30 National Guard members will be deployed to each of the 21 additional hospitals that will start receiving help next week.

Brig. Gen. Bryan Howay, director of the joint staff for the Kentucky National Guard, urged Kentuckians to take steps to curb the pandemic.

“We are so honored to be serving with our health care heroes, who have been on the frontlines of this craziness for so many months now,” Howay said. “[Our mission] only serves to highlight the importance of all the preventative measures that the governor and everyone speaks of, especially getting vaccinated.”

Nearly 2.6 million Kentuckians — about 70% of the state’s adult population — have received at least a first dose of the vaccine.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.