Don’t look now… COVID cases skyrocket in one month’s time over 400 percent

Published 5:09 pm Thursday, July 29, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Whether one takes COVID at face value or is looked at as a conspiracy theory, hard numbers show that the virus has begun ramping up as the new Delta variant has taken center stage being highly transmissible and carrying a quicker onset of symptoms.

For that reason, Ballad Health has restarted its weekly updates to help keep the public informed of what is transpiring in the 21 counties that the health provider serves.

“The public needs to know what we are seeing now and that is that COVID is clearly a threat,” said Alan Levine – Executive Chairman and President/CEO of Ballad Health. “All over the country, hospitals are reporting that they are overwhelmed and it’s only July.

“Yesterday (Tuesday) we had 90 patients in our emergency department holding for admissions and today (Wednesday) that number is up to 119. If this is the middle of July and this is happening as we see an increased number of COVID cases in the ER or in the hospital and we go into the fall and we start to see an increase in flu cases, this will bring not only Ballad but the healthcare system as a whole to a breaking point.”

Levine added that he had spoken to a colleague in North Carolina and that they are seeing the same thing happen in that state.

Part of the concern stems from nurses leaving the treatment side of the profession after COVID began to recede and now there is a shortage of staff to provide health care.

Ballad’s Chief Operating Officer, Eric Deaton, shared that the Delta Variant is very widespread in all corners of their service area.

“As of June 13th, there were 135 diagnosed with COVID but for the week of July 18th-24th, there were a total of 679 people with COVID,” said Deaton. “That is over a 400 percent increase.

“We are having that uptick because it’s (Delta) is contagious but only have a 37 percent vaccination rate across the region.”

Deaton issued a plea for those watching the update to get vaccinated because the numbers in March showed that for those who were hospitalized with COVID, 95 percent of the cases had not been vaccinated or only had received a partial vaccination.

The COO shared that there are 47 patients currently hospitalized with COVID with 12 of those in Intensive Care and five on ventilators. The positivity rate stands at 12.5 percent currently compared to 3.4 percent on July 4th according to Deaton.

“Our modeling shows there are roughly 44-47 patients per day for right now but as school starts back and inside activities increase, by late October we project there could be 120 patients in-house,” Deaton added.

“We might have to start delaying elective services if an increase like that were to continue because our team will be very stretched.”

Deaton also said that all facilities continue to mandate that everyone wears a mask and that only two guests per patient are allowed. The health provider also continues to screen staff and guests.

Clay Runnels, Ballad Health’s Chief Physician Executive, shared that the system could accommodate up to 75 COVID patients without overextending the system.

Runnels shared information in regard to the Delta variant.

“The Delta Variant is much more highly transmissible than the original Wu Han virus,” Runnels stated. “Vaccinated people are at a slightly higher risk of getting the virus with the difference being that there is a lower rate of hospitalization or death if you have been vaccinated.

“There is a whole range of presentations of the virus and it has a more rapid onset with patients deterioration also happening quicker.

“It’s going to make more people sick while requiring less contact. The Delta variant has been reported to be 200 times more transmissible.”

All three of the executives urged people to seek out true facts about the vaccination and to protect themselves and their families by getting vaccinated against the COVID virus.

They also urged everyone to take advantage of a flu shot once those are made available as the natural antibodies that might have been built up in the past against the flu may not help to fend off the flu this year after it was basically non-existent last season.