Ballad Health discusses COVID-19 protocols during the Christmas season

Published 3:37 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

BY NIC MILLER
STAR STAFF
nic.miller@elizabethton.com

Health officials are offering advice on how to be safe as the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads this Christmas season.

“The omicron strain of COVID is one that is very different from what people have seen in terms of how contagious it is. It is much more contagious than what we have seen in the past and that is going to make a significant difference,” said Jamie Swift, an infection prevention specialist with Ballad Health. “What we are expecting to happen is to see a large influx of cases as this variant moves into the region.”

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After the Thanksgiving holiday, Ballad saw an increase of cases in the region and experts are predicting another increase after Christmas.

“Our numbers show that we certainly saw an increase in cases after Thanksgiving, but as of right now we have begun to plateau a little bit. I do think that we need to expect an increase in cases. With the vast number of cases we expect to see in the region, I do believe that we will see hospitalizations go up,” said Swift.

Swift shared some advice to those that will be going home to see loved ones during the holiday season, saying, “We certainly want people to enjoy Christmas, but we want them to do it safely. Anytime that you are going to be getting in large groups, the safest way to gather is to ensure that everyone is vaccinated and boosted,” Swift said.

Swift said it is good to determine who is at risk and what you can do to lower that risk. That can include wearing masks, opening windows and increasing air ventilation. “Once omicron is in the region and fully circulating, it will spread rapidly even beyond large gatherings,” said Swift.

Swift said anyone wanting to get vaccinated can contact their local health department, personal physician or retail pharmacy. Ballad Health’s Community Vaccine Center at the Johnson City Mall will reopen beginning next week.

On Monday, Dec. 20, Northeast Tennessee recorded 465 new cases of COVID-19 with 41 of those coming from Carter County. In the region, 246,042 people or 48.7% of the population has received their COVID-19 vaccine.