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Ballad officials say mask mandates lowering number of COVID-19 cases in region

Ballad Health’s Director of Infection Prevention Jamie Swift addresses the media on Wednesday, Aug. 19. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

For a second consecutive week, Ballad Health officials announced a slight dip in COVID-19 numbers in the region. But according to officials, during a media briefing held on Wednesday, Aug. 19, everyone must stay diligent to continue this latest trend.

“We currently have 104 patients being treated for COVID-19 in our facilities,” Ballad Health’s Director of Infection Prevention Jamie Swift said Wednesday. “Of those patients, 23 are in ICU, with 13 of those patients receiving care through ventilators. We currently have 27 patients that are under suspicion of COVID-19, meaning those patients are in our facilities being treated for COVID-19 symptoms, while we wait for test results.”

According to Swift, the number of COVID-19 cases in Ballad’s 21-county services region continues to trend down slightly, which is a good sign that mask mandates are working. 

“Our current occupancy rate is at 93.3 percent of our med surge beds and 90.7 percent of our ICU beds throughout Ballad’s system,” Swift said. “We have 46 COVID-related beds available and 13 available ICU beds. Our positivity rate for the week has dropped a little to 9.5 percent.” 

During last week’s briefing, Ballad officials announced that the previous week’s positivity rate was at 10.8 percent. 

Swift was cautiously excited to see the numbers trend down slightly. 

“I’m really happy to see those numbers come down a little, and to see that mask wearing has helped,” Swift said. “We must stay diligent because we don’t want to see a slight decrease and then we get relaxed and the numbers shoot back up.”

According to Swift, mask wearing is one of the leading tools in the fight against COVID-19.

“Data shows that wearing a mask lowers the chances of spread,” Swift said. “With that said, it’s important to wear them properly. Make sure they cover your mouth and nose. Also make sure to wear them when you speak; you may have to adjust your volume to communicate.”

Swift announced new reports from the CDC, denouncing the use of a specific type of mask. “Masks with valves are not recommended for use by the CDC,” Swift said. “These are masks that have the little circle on either side of the masks that air can leak out.”

According to Swift, the masks with valves will not be permitted in Ballad’s facilities. 

“Because of the CDC’s recommendation, beginning Thursday, Aug. 20, Ballad Health will not allow anyone wearing these styles of masks into their facilities,” Swift said.

Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton confirmed that statistics show that there is a direct correlation from regional mask mandates and the drop in numbers trusted to COVID-19.

“Mask mandates began in our region around mid- to late-July, and in the past three weeks we have seen a drop in percent of cases in the region,” Deaton said. 

Despite the positive trend, Deaton is calling on the public to stay diligent in the fight against COVID-19. 

“Even though we are seeing a decrease in the stats, we must stay diligent with our mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing to keep these trends going in the right direction,” Deaton said. “We can’t become complacent. We hope to see current mask mandates around the region continue into the next few months.”

Deaton announced a new phone app that will help stay in contact with Ballad Health and receive the most up-to-date information. You can download Ballad’s app through Google Play and on Apple’s App Store.

Ballad representatives took the opportunity during Wednesday’s meeting to thank their team members that continue to be on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight. 

“I would like to share our mission moment for the day,” Ballad Chief Physician Executive Dr. Clay Runnels said. “Our mission is to honor those we serve with best possible care. Here’s a story from Frances Marion Manor in Marion, Virginia. This story is about one of our team members there named Cindy Parks. Cindy gives 100 percent everyday and will take on any task, no questions asked. She is always praying for her patients and coworkers and has really stepped up during this pandemic. Cindy is a blessing to us all. From all of us at Ballad Health, we say thank you to Cindy and to all our hard working and dedicated staff.”

For more information and updates from Ballad Health please visit