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Ballad Health: COVID-19 in region ‘very real and very serious’

From Staff Reports

During a media briefing held on Friday, July 10, Ballad Health officials announced that the health system is currently treating several patients for COVID-19 in its facilities.

“We do have 29 positive COVID-19 patients that we are treating,” Ballad Health’s Director of Infection Prevention Jamie Swift said. “This is very real and very serious.”

Ballad Health President and CEO Alan Levine urged the community to use precautions to avoid the future spread of COVID-19.

“We have the ability to slow this down,” Levine said. “Everyone needs to wear a mask, no matter how you feel about it.”

During Friday’s press conference it was also announced that there is an anticipated increase in the number of positive cases in the region during the coming weeks. 

“We are seeing a rapid and drastic rise in COVID-19 cases,” Ballad Health Chief Physician Executive Dr. Clay Runnels said. “We expect to see a 5-10 percent increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the coming weeks. Like our staff, we are hoping that everyone will wear a mask. People need to start taking responsibility and taking action now to protect each other.” 

According to Runnels, Ballad currently has enough personal protective equipment (PPE). 

“I spoke to our supply chain, and we are in good shape right now,” Runnels said.

Runnels confirmed that Ballad currently has beds available for COVID-19 patients, but warned that could change with future cases. 

“We currently have 125 beds set aside for possible COVID-19 cases, but we could see that change very rapidly if cases continue to climb,” Runnels added.

According to the Tennessee Health Departments website,, as of 11:30 a.m. on July 10, Tennessee has 57,153 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have been 710 deaths in Tennessee due to COVID-19. Unicoi County has had 56 cases of COVID-19 with 53 recoveries from COVID-19.