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No one should have to die like that…

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
If a loved one was threatening to take their life, anyone would do whatever it took to prevent that from ever happening.

That is exactly what Ballad Health has been trying to do over the last nine months of the pandemic known as COVID-19 and right now the situation is escalating to a point where the health care provider doesn’t know how long they will be able to hold out if residents don’t begin taking COVID-19 more seriously than ever before.

On Wednesday, Ballad Health gave its weekly update on the progression of the virus and the numbers are looking grimmer every day.

On Tuesday of this week, the hospital system set a new record with 290 patients, and by Wednesday that number had climbed 20 more patients to 310 as the percentage of positivity rate moved from 25 percent to 27 percent in Northeast Tennessee.

Southwest Virginia is now at 30 percent. The statewide positivity rate across Tennessee stands at 16.6 percent and Virginia statewide is 10.5.

“I’m afraid that we have not seen the full surge of hospitalizations yet,” said Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton. “We are concerned. We think that we will see a surge at Christmas and even more after the New Year.”

Deaton went on to add that he thinks that the health system is just beginning to see the results of Thanksgiving get-togethers.

“If we see numbers increase in January and February, I don’t know if Ballad Health can handle it,” said Jamie Swift, Chief Infection Prevention Officer of Ballad Health.

“We have learned a lot since we started treating this and one of those things is that we cannot save a lot. There is still time to protect yourself and your family.

“We are seeing more and more that come in saying that they were doing everything right,” Swift continued. “You have to be careful all the time.”

Swift said that eating out with friends and having friends over or any other types of gatherings just invite the opportunity for COVID-19 to continue to spread.

During the weekly update, Aimee Light, the Director of Cardiovascular Services at Holston Valley Medical Center, put a face to how the pandemic has not only impacted her from a medical professional standpoint but from a personal testimony as well.

Aimee shared how the virus took the life of her mother and a couple of close friends.

“No one should have to die like that,” Light said. “No one should have to watch their loved ones die like that.

“Our nurses and doctors are working overtime and exhausted. It’s so frustrating to go out and see people gathering and not wearing masks. I know God has a plan and is in control, but if more people would have taken this seriously, how many lives could have been saved.”

Light went on to add a stern warning, “I don’t know what it will take to make people know the gravity of this situation. There is nothing that will bring back my mom or the 800 that have died in our region, but think of lives that can be saved going forward.”

Deaton shared data to show how the surge is impacting the region.

“Deaths continue to increase. 15 to 16 percent that is hospitalized will result in death. There were 142 deaths in November and we expect to see more in December than November. We expect to have 460 beds by the end of December. We are pleading for people to think of modifications in their day to day life.”

With much talk about a vaccine to combat COVID-19, Dr. Clay Runnels – Chief Physician Executive, advised that even when the vaccine becomes available, it will take months for distribution to the public.

Runnels also reached out to the public for donations of plasma from those who have had COVID-19 to help those who are currently battling the virus. He also said there is a significant need for blood and blood products and encouraged donors to contribute.

Significant numbers as of Wednesday, December 9, 2020:
4,477 new diagnoses from November 29 to December 5, 2020.
306 patients hospitalized
27.2 positivity rate
49 new patients
38 discharged patients
62 patients in ICU
29 on ventilators
6 awaiting result
47 COVID beds available
12 ICU beds available