We are not through this yet… Despite Governor’s decision Ballad warns now it not time to drop guard

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, April 28, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
With Governor Bill Lee’s announcement on Tuesday that he was lifting the statewide COVID-19 health orders, during Wednesday morning’s Ballad Health weekly update Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton advised those in this part of the state that the fight against COVID-19 is not over.

“We want people to remember as orders are relaxed to not wear masks, masks are still going to be important to wear as well as social distancing and washing hands,” Deaton said in his opening remarks.

“We continue to see a number of increased cases as we work with it, in it, and work through it.”

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Deaton continued by adding that there have not been enough vaccinations in the community to help build herd immunity and move things more to normal.

“We want to encourage people to get vaccines,” Deaton said. “If you are in public and cannot social distance, wear your masks.

“Anyone 16 and older needs to take time to get vaccinated. They are free of charge and have very minimum side effects.”

The scorecard for Wednesday in the 21-county region served by Ballad Health show 122 patients currently in the hospital for COVID-19 with 30 of those patients in Intensive Care and 22 on ventilators.

The positivity rate has dropped to 10.7 which is good news according to Deaton but far from the 5.0 percent or below that has been the goal.

Also, most glaring on the scorecard shows that an unfortunate milestone was reached in deaths as there now have been 2,008 deaths since numbers started to be reported in March of 2020.

There have been 97,748 total positive cases reported since March 1, 2020.

42,300 individuals have received their first dose of vaccine from Ballad Health facilities while 39,189 people are now fully vaccinated with their second doses.

This week is also the first week in a number of weeks that there has not been an increase as the week has shown a 17 percent decline from last week’s report.

There was also some disparaging news in regards to the age of those being hospitalized are averaging below 60 years of age as 62 percent of the current patients are between 40 and 69 years of age.

And of the 50 deaths in the month of April, 40 of those have been in facilities operated by Ballad which indicates that deaths are not happening in outside facilities such as nursing homes.

Deaton also noted that there are 77 COVID-positive patients being monitored at home which means they aren’t critical enough to be in the hospital but still are being followed up with.

Other information shared by Deaton included news that the Elizabethton vaccination site operated by Ballad will transition to the Mall at Johnson City which has a larger space meaning more access to those seeking to be vaccinated. This will take place on May 3rd.

There are also 60 post-COVID patients who are being supported by the new center which was recently opened. Deaton said those who are in need of support after having to deal with and recovering from COVID-19 may call 423-952-2183 for more information.

The COO also provided information that health departments have reported that the South African and Brazilian variants are now in the region as the B.1.1.7 variant has become the dominant strain in the region overtaking the original stain that was in the region.

Deaton added that Ballad Health’s main objective is to provide accurate information for what is happening in the region.

Dr. Clay Runnels, Chief Physician Executive, provided an update on recent wastewater testing performed at the Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol wastewater facilities that answered the two questions with a yes that the health provider had been seeking and that was there is still a significant COVID spread in the area and a significant amount of variants present.

The test shows there is a higher burden of the UK variant in the samples.

“We are very concerned with the spread among the younger population in our hospitals, Dr. Runnels added. “There are going to be three cycles of testing over a four-week period which will help with showing the trend.

“The variants are spreading broadly and we expected to see that at some point.”

Dr. Runnels also advised there is a desperate need for all blood types by Marsh Regional Blood Center. Those who have been vaccinated can donate 48 hours after receiving their vaccine.