Ballad Health makes operational changes including permitting 2 visitors at a time inside patient rooms

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Coronavirus hospitalization numbers continue to drop within the Ballad Health care system.

The health system reported 157 COVID-19 patients in their hospitals, their lowest number since late October.

Twenty-nine patients are being treated in intensive care units. This is the lowest since October 26. Twenty-one patients are on ventilators, the fewest since November 7.

News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun found out the decline is allowing ballad to resume some surgeries at their hospitals.

Ballad Health announced operational changes in its COVID-19 press conference Wednesday morning, starting with resuming its non-emergent and elective procedures across the system, Monday, February 1.

This comes after Ballad officials said they are optimistic about the slow decline of COVID-19 cases in the region.

Ballad Health is reporting hospital rates and new case rates are much lower than they have been.

“There is still a very high rate of COVID-19 spread in our region,” Ballad Health chief infection prevention officer, Jamie Swift said.

Eric Deaton, Ballad Health’s chief operating officer, added: “We’ve had a multi-disciplinary surgical group looking and really helping guide consistent position leaders and others throughout our system that really helped us look at, as we’ve seen a decline and number of COVID patients’ the ability to take care of our surgical patients at the same time.”

For almost 10 days, Deaton said Ballad’s inpatient COVID-19 count was below 20% of its total patient population.

The health system also announced starting Thursday, inpatients may have two visitors at a time instead of one.

Deaton said, “Except those in long-term care, behavioral health and pediatric and NICU. I think that’s very good for our patients and really does help them as they maneuver through their illness.”

This will also be the last week that ballad health will be utilizing national guards in its facilities, who helped with testing sites and urgent care centers since December 2. There were 33 national guard members across the system.

As Balled Health continues to see COVID-19 numbers trending down in its 21-county coverage, its health officials are correlating this to two things.

The vaccine being distributed and people adhering to mask wearing and social distancing.

As of Wednesday, about 40,000 vaccines have been administered through Ballad Health’s facilities.

Ballad also said for its total service area, at least 7.5 percent of people have received first dose.

“I do believe the Eastern Tennessee region really has done some great things in leading the state in providing vaccines well out ahead of some other parts of the state,” Deaton said.

Kassahun asked Ballad Health officials about the recent report released by the WHO about not recommending pregnant women to take the Moderna vaccine.

Swift explained, “They basically, at this point to my knowledge have not changed their stance, which says pregnant women should consult with their physicians but then the vaccine should not be withheld if the decision is made that that person should get the vaccine based on their risk and their pregnancy.”

Swift said the health system will continue to take guidance from the CDC and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in regards to any updates or recommendations.

Ballad Health continues to ask for convalescent plasma donations. If you have recovered from COVID-19, you are urged to donate at Marsh Regional Blood Center to donate.

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