Ballad Health officials, pastor urge community to get vaccinated

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As Ballad Health facilities continue to treat more COVID-19 patients, health and community leaders are urging people to take precautions by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated.

Pastor of Highlands Fellowship Church Allen Jessee spoke about the importance of protecting one another by getting vaccinated and encouraged the community to do so.

“At the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 we of the faith community were being called on to come alongside families that lost loved ones, and we were doing funerals every other day it seemed,” Jessee said. “I thought, ‘Wow this awful,’ I mean my heart was breaking because we were losing people that we love.”

It’s something Jessee doesn’t want to relive, especially because now there’s a widely available prevention method.

“We see the Delta variant come and in many cases, it’s a preventable pandemic,” Jessee said. “We have a tool called the vaccine that could have kept most people from getting this horrible disease.”

Meanwhile, Ballad Health officials are preparing for a worst-case scenario.

“Next week, we feel like we’ll be right at 400 patients potentially right in this range,” Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said. “A few weeks out, we could be right at 500 or 493 in-patients.”

Ballad Health will postpone all elective and non-emergent surgeries starting Thursday to prepare for this surge.

“This is obviously a very tough decision because there are people, although they are elective, they are badly needed procedures and surgeries,” Deaton said. “Given limitations on staffing that we have today, we have to be able to use our staff in the most appropriate way to care for the most acute patients.”

A breakdown shows 281 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized at the system and of that 259 are unvaccinated.

“One of the things that affects me greatly is the people that I’m talking to that have almost lost their lives, and some have lost their life, is the regret that they did not get this vaccine,” Jessee said.

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