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Ballad officials share weekly COVID-19 update

Ballad Chief Physician Executive Dr. Clay Runnels addresses the media during a briefing on Wednesday, Sept. 30. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

Ballad officials called for the public to continue to wear masks and socially distance as positive COVID-10 cases plateau within its facilities.

Ballad Health’s Director of Infection Prevention Jamie Swift announced that the numbers have “flattened” during Ballad’s weekly media briefing on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

“Even though the numbers have flattened, we would like to see them trend downward,” Swift said. “It is really too soon to think that this pandemic is over or close to being over. As of this morning, we are treating 76 patients with COVID-19 in our facilities. Of those, 17 patients are in our ICU with 12 of those patients requiring a ventilator. We currently have 38 COVID-19 med surg beds available and seven ICU beds available. Our current patient occupancy rate is at 95.2 percent for med surg beds and 95.2 percent ICU beds. Our positivity rate is up to 8.1 percent.”

According to Swift, as children return to school, it’s important to know that they can spread COVID-19 even if they are asymptomatic.

“Although we are seeing less severe cases of COVID-19 in children, there are still some cases of children getting really sick,” Swift said. “Even if children don’t get sick, they still can bring the virus home to adults that may have severe reactions to the virus. We really need parents to pay close attention to any symptoms in children; even mild symptoms can be COVID-19. If children see adults wearing masks, social distancing and washing their hands, they will pick up on that.”

Ballad Chief Physician Executive Dr. Clay Runnels confirmed that children can contract COVID-19.

“As Jamie (Swift) said, children can still get this virus,” Runnels said. “We are actually seeing more children in our region test positive. Most children experience mild symptoms, but some require hospitalizations. Children can have other complications such as multi-inflammatory syndrome otherwise known as MIS-C. There is a strong correlation between COVID-19 and MIS-C. So far, Ballad has seen three cases of MIS-C in our region.”

According to CDC.gov, MIS-C is a known complication in children that have COVID-19. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal (gut) pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19.

According to Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton, Ballad will now be able to give test results virtually through their EPIC system.

“We are making that testing very easy,” Deaton said. “Today, you can actually schedule a COVID-19 test online through Ballad Health’s app that is downloadable at the iTunes app store and Google Play. You could also go to our website and there is a place to click and schedule a test. Through My Chart you can see your results. Our EPIC system is going live today. We are very excited about this.”

EPIC can communicate information back and forth between medical facilities and to the patient. The EPIC platform currently covers 200 million people – roughly more than two-thirds of patients nationwide.

Swift reiterated that flu season is upon us.

“Although we do not have a COVID vaccine, the flu vaccine is here,” Swift said. “It is safe and it is available and we highly recommend that almost everyone over six months old be vaccinated by the end of October.”

Ballad continues to accept plasma from individuals that may have had COVID-19 and are now better.

For more information please visit balladhealth.org. To find out if you qualify to donate convalescent plasma, please call 203-5640.