Ballad Health CEO: ‘We are now doing upwards of 1,800 tests per day’

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Labor Day weekend gatherings, students being back in class and football games are all happening at the same time Ballad Health is treating a record number of COVID-19 patients.

“It did give me pause when you see the crowds in those stadiums and there’s nobody wearing masks, there’s nobody socially distancing, they’re all over each other. Do I think that’s going to result in the additional spread of this virus? Sure,” Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine said on Monday as the system’s record of inpatient hospitalizations has increased for three consecutive days.

“If people are vaccinated, they are less likely to get seriously ill,” Levine said. “But, if they’re not vaccinated and they’re getting into these crowds without any type of protection, we can anticipate that there will be an increase in the number of cases.”

The higher numbers have created a need for more testing. It’s a concerning trend as the system sees a surge of patients and is also dealing with a backlog of COVID-19 test results.

“We were doing about 600 tests a day back in the winter when we were at our last peak. We are now doing upwards of 1,800 tests per day,” Levine said. “So, when you’re seeing a tripling of your volumes, your staffing and your supplies become an issue.”

Right now, the system cannot offer same-day testing. The overwhelming volume is forcing results to take two to three days.

“We were doing all of the testing in-house. We had acquired the technology to do it and we’re doing it,” Levine said. “But with this kind of growth and volume, we’re now relying on outside labs to help supplement what we have which has of course affected our wait times.”

The system hopes to be able to offer same-day testing again sometime next week.

News Channel 11 asked Levine if it was “too late” for people to consider getting vaccinated. He told us that it is never too late and he can’t encourage getting the shot enough.

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