By Richard Rourk
Ballad Health is extending its efforts to assist regional health departments and health districts with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccinations, launching an online tool for eligible residents to schedule their inoculations.
Online scheduling is now available at Ballad Health’s community vaccination centers (CVCs) in Virginia and Tennessee. People eligible to receive the vaccine in Virginia include Commonwealth residents over the age of 65; healthcare workers; and, as of March 1, residents between the ages of 16-64 with chronic health conditions. Tennessee residents eligible to receive the vaccine include everyone over the age of 65 and healthcare workers.
“Our fight against COVID-19 has taken many different forms over the last year, but prevention and protection have always been front and center,” Ballad Health’s CEO Eric Deaton said. “We’re still advocating for infection prevention through masks and physical distancing, but vaccines are, most likely, the best chance we have to fully defeat this virus. Since the first vaccines became available in the Appalachian Highlands in December, we’ve been working together with our health departments to distribute these shots as widely, quickly and effectively as possible. Now that we have online scheduling in place, we’re taking a major step forward in reaching into our communities to help more people secure this potentially life-saving inoculation.”
The scheduling tool is available on the COVID-19 page, as well as the Ballad Health mobile app on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. When registering, patients can select the site that’s most convenient – Ballad Health operates its CVCs in Norton and Abingdon, Virginia, and Kingsport and Elizabethton in Tennessee – and they must receive both doses at the same location.
Community members must bring a photo ID when they arrive at their vaccine appointments, and healthcare workers should bring their work ID badge. Second doses will be scheduled when patients check-in and everyone must be observed for at least 15 minutes after receiving the shot to monitor for any possible side effects.
To date, Ballad Health has provided more than 30,000 first-dose and 27,000 second-dose vaccines to its team members, physicians, volunteers and contract employees, as well as community healthcare workers and eligible members of the communities it serves.
Additionally, in continuing its ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus, Ballad Health still maintains a strong presence in testing, with six drive-through testing sites in the region. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms and believes they might have been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to call Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523. Community members can also schedule COVID-19 testing on this website or through the Ballad Health mobile app.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, all Ballad Health facilities are taking crucial safety precautions, including visitation restrictions, enhanced physical distancing measures, increased infection control and new processes and systems to safeguard patients’ care journeys.
Ballad Health released the latest numbers on Monday, March 1, showing that cases in Ballad facilities continue to trend downward. According to Ballad’s scorecard, there were 76 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and of those 21 patients were in the ICU and 9 were on ventilators. There were 60 COVID-19 deaths in Ballad facilities over the last seven days and Ballad currently has a 9.1 percent positivity rate.
As of Monday, March 1, Unicoi County had 41 active cases of COVID-19. According to the Tennessee Department of Health’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard, there have been 47 COVID-19-related deaths in Unicoi County.
In Northeast Tennessee, as of March 1, Washington County has 186 active positive cases of COVID-19 with 234 related deaths. Sullivan County has 314 active cases and 273 reported deaths. Greene County has 82 active cases and 144 deaths. Hawkins County has 152 active cases and 94 deaths. Carter County has 79 active cases and 152 deaths, while Johnson County is reporting 27 active cases of COVID-19 and 38 deaths.
There have been 649,664 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 9,181deaths as a result of the virus in the State of Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
According to the CDC, as of Monday, the United States has had 28,405,925 positive cases and 511,839 deaths due to COVID-19 since Jan. 21, 2020.
As of Monday, March 1, 1,358,885 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Tennessee. In Unicoi County, 18.52 percent of the population has received their first dose and 13.56 percent of the population has received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.