JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – It’s been almost four months since the first coronavirus case hit the Tri-Cities in Sullivan County back in March.
“It’s kind of a reverse effect where now that it’s bad, people are taking less precautions and that’s just going to continue to fuel the spread,” said ETSU student Matthew Gentile as he was walking with a friend Tuesday evening at Founder’s Park.
Now, Ballad Health is dealing with an increase in patients like it hasn’t seen since the start of the pandemic. Tuesday, Jamie Swift, Ballad’s Director of Infection Prevention, said the system was treating 21 patients for the virus…the highest number yet.
“The cases that we worked last week in Ballad Health outnumbered any other week of the pandemic so far,” Swift said.
Swift says hospital numbers are lagging behind state reported cases.
“You may be tested in a drive-thru and be an outpatient and be okay… your symptoms may progress and then you end up in the hospital a week to ten days later and so as our cases continue to rise every day… our numbers are going up and up,” she said. “So, as those continue to go up, I expect our hospitalizations to continue to go up in future weeks”
Oftentimes, the coronavirus is compared to the flu. Swift says, that’s simply not the case.
“Covid is certainly not just another flu,” Swift said. “This is a novel virus. There’s a region full of people that are vulnerable. We don’t have a vaccine. We don’t have known proven treatments. There’s a lot that we don’t know about this novel virus.”
As businesses return to normal- Ballad is also seeing a change in who needs care.
“We’re seeing the age range of our cases drop. We’re seeing cases in travelers, in college students, in large industries so, there’s really no cluster of cases anymore… it’s random community spread,” Swift said.
Those changes bring concern over whether or not the Tri-Cities could see another shut down.
“I’m worried that we might get stuck in this loop where we shut down for a couple of weeks and we don’t quite kick it and then open back up then spike again,” said Johnson City resident Ben Putland as he was walking with his wife at Founder’s Park. “And we just go up and down like a roller coaster for who knows how long?”
Swift also said that she is worried about what this fall could bring with covid and flu season… especially since the virus did not die down like expected over the summer.