TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) – Ballad Health announced in their weekly COVID-19 briefing Wednesday that they are concerned that the number of COVID-19 cases has continued to climb each week. They also report 19 virus deaths in the Tri-Cities region in the past seven days.
There are currently 160 patients being treated for COVID-19 in Ballad hospitals. 44 of those patients are in the ICU, and 26 are on a ventilator.
Ballad reports four pediatric COVID patients are being treated at Niswonger Children’s Hospital.
Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton announced Wednesday the system is developing surge plans, which includes putting a call out to retired nurses to come and help the burdened hospital system due to a rise in COVID cases and lack of workers.
“If you are retired and you would still be willing to help us, we would really greatly appreciate your help,” said Deaton.
Ballad officials said one-third of all new cases in their hospitals are in children. It is causing them to ask school leaders to issue mask requirements.
“Ballad Health unequivocally supports masking in schools,” said Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift. “Masking and physical distancing keeps our kids safe, and it keeps them in school. It truly is a win-win for their education and their health.”
Ballad Health Medical Associates President Dr. Mark Patterson said school leaders should be willing to take the heat for issuing requirements.
“As a previous member of a school board for many years, I understand the political pressure on you, but remember the health and the wellbeing of the children are your responsibility,” said Patterson.
Ballad announced E.R. wait times are suffering right now due to surging COVID cases and strapped resources. Leaders said they will be deciding soon on if they will have to once again put a pause on elective surgeries.
“Numbers continue to increase, and at this rate, we know the worst is yet to come,” said Swift.
Officials said the rise in cases and hospitalizations does not have to happen, considering the availability of the vaccine. They continue to encourage anyone over the age of 12 to get vaccinated to help stop the spread of the virus.
Ballad has resumed daily morning meetings for their Corporate Emergency Operation Center based on the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the need to make decisions quickly.
“We have to get ahead of that, we have to have supplies ready and that’s the purpose. We are protecting our community and protecting our team members from the growth of COVID-19,” said Deaton.
Deaton said they do not want to get to the point that they have to choose who gets care and who doesn’t as COVID continues to strain the system.
You can News Channel 11’s stream of the briefing below: