“On the 4th of July we had only 20 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, but today we have 46. Of those 46 patients, 12 are in intensive care units and six are on ventilators,” Deaton said. Ballad Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton explained the seriousness of the Delta variant that has triggered a surge of cases in the region. Ballad projects there could be as many as 120 patients hospitalized with the virus by October. Ballad currently has the capacity to accommodate 75 COVID-19 patients. If that number is surpassed, Ballad would have to make changes as its staff is stretched.
Ballad is experiencing a nursing shortage in a situation similar to many other hospital systems across the United States. After working through a grueling year-long pandemic, many nurses either retired or found other jobs. “As we see an increase of COVID-19 cases, our system is going to get pushed to close to the breaking point as we are dealing with an increase of other acute health issues as well as a nursing shortage,” Levine said.
“Our nurses have been incredible, but they are tired,” Levine said. Levine said there has been a dramatic increase in delta variant COVID-19 cases in the region over the last month and warned that the situation could deteriorate rapidly.
According to Ballad, the delta variant is much more transmissible than any other strain of COVID-19. It spreads in less exposure time, and often spreads to three or four people at a time rather than just one or two as was often the case with past strains of the virus. “The delta variant is very contagious, and we also only have a 37% vaccination rate across our region. For some reason, now that we have a life-saving vaccine we are seeing people not taking it. We would plead that people please get the vaccine,” Deaton said. The average age of those hospitalized from COVID-19 has dropped from 66 to 60 over the last three weeks, and the average age of those dying from COVID-19 dropped from 74 to 69. This decrease in age is due to lower vaccination rates among younger demographics, as higher age demographics are well-protected through high vaccination rates.
Deaton also explained that the average age of those hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 has decreased sharply over the last month in the region. These changes would include the reintroduction of special COVID-19 units and possibly deferring elective patient care.
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