Ballad Health: Hospitalizations continue to rise, 55 ‘people under investigation’ awaiting COVID-19 test results

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Officials with Ballad Health reiterated Tuesday that there continues to be a “large increase” in the overall number of COVID-19 cases in our region.

Chief Infection Prevention Officer for Ballad Health, Jamie Swift, broke down the number of active COVID-19 cases at Ballad Health facilities as of August 5.

·         94 COVID-19 patients in Ballad facilities

·         22 patients in ICU

·         14 people on ventilators

·         55 PUI’s or “people under investigation” (Swift said this is a group of people that have been admitted and have symptoms of COVID-19 but are awaiting test results.)

Swift continued to urge the public to wearing  masks, practice social distancing and practice good hand hygiene as she added that their in-house case count is still doubling every 12 days.

The health system reported its entire market which consists of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia had an average positive percentage rate of 10.9%, Wednesday morning.

This compares to Tennessee’s average at 8.3%, and Virginia’s positive case average at 7.2%.

With the alarming increase in cases, Ballad Health is anticipating the surge to continue in the region.

Ballad Health officials said the region is seeing higher rates than metro areas, like Chattanooga, Memphis and Knoxville.

The health system said its COVID-19 patient occupancy rate is reaching capacity, sitting at 91.2%.

Med surge beds and ICU beds are overwhelming Ballad Health facilities, allotted for COVID-19 patients.

“As you can see from these numbers, our hospitalizations continue to go up every week. This is really a threat to all of us in the region, regardless of your age or your current health status,” Ballad Health chief infection prevention officer, Jamie Swift said.

Chief infection prevention officer, Jamie Swift, said the increase in rates indicates the growing level of community prevalence and transmission.

“Today, as we’re seeing this increased spread, prolonged spread, within our state, our region and our nation, Ballad Health’s percent of positive cases is 10.9% today,” Swift said. “We’re performing more tests than we have in Ballad Health.”

In early May, we were seeing about 1%,” Ballad Health chief operating officer, Eric Deaton said. “I’ve moved up to over 10% just in the past week.”

Chief operating officer, Eric Deaton said the health system plans to increase the number of COVID-19 beds.

“Our first surge plan puts us at about 165 beds, as the next step is to mobilize staff in order to take care of these patients. Our next surge puts us to about 215 beds,” Deaton said.

COVID-19 cases are rising at an alarming rate in our region, and officials say the local supply of convalescent plasma can’t keep up with the current demand.

“If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, and you have recovered, please consider donating plasma. Your gift of plasma could really make a difference for someone else that’s struggling with the virus in one of our local hospitals,” Bristol Regional Medical Center vice president and chief operating officer, Chris Miller said.

Bristol Regional Medical Center vice president and chief operating officer, Chris Miller, survived and recovered from COVID-19, after contracting it while helping in the middle Tennessee tornado recovery efforts.

Miller said, “I was having some odd sensations in my chest. After some lab work and an EKG, I was experiencing some premature ventricular contractions, which are what we call PBCs and I was actually having an acute kidney injury.”

He was one of the first people to donate plasma once he recovered and hopes others can too.

“I really can’t think of a better way to serve our community than to give another husband, mother, grandparent, friend or neighbor an opportunity to overcome the virus,” Miller said.

You can watch the entire news briefing on our WJHL Facebook page below.

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