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Nearing capacity… Ballad ICU beds shrink as patient numbers increase

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
As the Delta variant of COVID continues to surge through the region, local health provider Ballad Health shared in their weekly update on Wednesday that as of midnight on Tuesday, there were only 10 to 12 beds left in the ICU unit to care for the influx of COVID patients.

One week ago, there were a total of 160 patients in the hospital with positive cases of COVID. Wednesday that number was at 201 patients in the hospital – an increase of 26 percent more than last week.

Of those hospitalized, there were 61 patients in ICU with 44 on ventilators and three pediatric patients. There were a total of nine under investigation for COVID.

Along with those hospitalized, Ballad is treating 113 Safe at Home patients – those patients who have been sent home with equipment that is on the verge of being hospitalized bringing the total number being treated for positive COVID tests to 314 patients.

Eric Deaton, Chief Operating Officer of Ballad Health, stated that the total number of patients on ventilators now compared to when there were 330 patients in the hospital during December 2020 is a higher percentage.

The positivity rate for the region stands at 15.2 percent.

“An interesting number to share is that 35 percent of those being diagnosed with COVID are 18 years of age and younger,” stated Deaton. “Wearing masks when inside, when you can’t social distance, helps to reduce the threat of COVID.

“We are still asking parents to allow children to wear their masks to school.”

Deaton shared that since July 4th, 2021, the growth rate has climbed to 1,251 percent with the average age of those in the hospital being 60 years of age.

The COO went on to add that one of the most discouraging numbers lies in those who still have not been vaccinated saying, “We have not seen the number of vaccinations that we would like to see.”

Dr. Clay Runnels, Chief Physician Executive, shared that statewide that 75 percent of pediatric ICU beds are full adding, “If the trend continues in our region unimpeded, we will find ourselves in the same situation.”

With the increase of patients being admitted for COVID, another issue that has arisen is there is a larger wait time in the health provider’s Emergency Rooms as more patients are being held in the ER while awaiting a room.

“If it is not life or limb-threatening, the waits are going to be longer,” said Dr. Runnels.

Dr. Runnels also shared information that had been requested previously about the comparisons between those who had been vaccinated and those who had not.

Out of the 201 patients currently, 180 are unvaccinated while 21 have been vaccinated. Of the 61 patients in ICU, 57 are unvaccinated and four have been vaccinated.

The final numbers dealt with those on ventilators that showed of the 44 on ventilators, 41 are unvaccinated and three are vaccinated.

Another point that Dr. Runnels brought out was that those on ventilators range in age from the 30s to the 50s which is drastically different from when the COVID originally began.