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Ballad seeing COVID-19 hospitalizations decline

By Richard Rourk

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to trend down in Ballad Health facilities as health officials anticipate the beginning of the flu season. 

“We are seeing the hospitalizations in Ballad facilities trend down and that is a really good thing,” Ballad Health’s Director of Infection Prevention Jamie Swift said during a media briefing on Wednesday, Sept. 9. “We are really excited to see this. As of this morning, we are treating 92 COVID-19 positive patients in Ballad facilities. We have 13 COVID positive patients in our ICU and 11 of those are on ventilators. Our current hospitalization rate is at 94.4 percent for our med surg beds and 84.7 percent of our ICU beds across the health system. We do have 44 COVID specific beds available and 21 ICU COVID specific beds available in our facilities.”

Despite the drop in hospitalizations numbers, Swift warns that the public must stay diligent in the fight against COVID-19. 

“We must not become complacent,” Swift said. “It’s more important now than ever before, to social distance, wear masks and wash our hands. Flu season runs from October until May and one of the major reasons we are excited to see the hospitalizations drop is because we know that the flu season is coming and it is expected to be a bad one. Typically we will see hospitalizations and death rates rise with flu season, so we really encourage everyone to get their flu shot, preferably in September or October. It truly is more important that people get their flu shot this year than any other time before. If we have a severe flu season combined with COVID-19 it could overwhelm our hospitals and staff. With that said, we have to remember this COVID pandemic is not over. We do not feel comfortable enough to say that it is, given the data.”

According to Swift, flu vaccines are currently available and are easy to find. 

“We are not at the stage where we have a COVID-19 vaccine yet, but we do have a flu vaccine and it works,” Swift said. “The flu vaccine is recommended for almost everyone over 6 months old. You can start getting the flu vaccine now. You can contact your provider or pharmacy to get your flu vaccine. Ballad is working on getting more flu vaccines available and we will be releasing that information in the coming weeks.”

Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton announced that the positivity rate for COVID-19 in the region is trending down this week. 

“We are at an 11.2 percent positivity rate for our 21 county area over the past seven days,” Deaton said. “That number is down from last week. We had 16 COVID-19 related deaths this week in the region.”

Ballad Chief Physician Executive Dr. Clay Runnels shifted gears to focus on a Mayo Clinic partnered program that Ballad Health and Marsh Regional Blood Center are working on. 

“We are still seeking candidates for our convalescent plasma program,” Runnels said. “This is plasma that is being donated from individuals that have had COVID-19 and recovered. The plasma is used in the treatment of current patients with COVID-19 and we are seeing very good results from this treatment. As of today, we have given 361 plasma treatments and we have received 473 plasma donations. We continue to ask that anyone that has recovered from COVID-19 to please step forward and donate plasma. This includes individuals that were asymptomatic. One donation can really impact the life of someone local.”

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