Ballad Health: September 2021 will mark deadliest month for region since pandemic began

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Hospital discharges don’t only account for recoveries, Ballad Health officials said Wednesday. For the month of September, many discharges included inpatients whose conditions never improved.

During the weekly briefing Sept. 29, regional health experts revealed that as novel coronavirus cases across the 21-county service area continue to plateau, professionals still notice a disturbing trend.

“Unfortunately, we do see a high number of deaths being recorded this month,” Ballad Health Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said. “Of the deaths that are occurring across Ballad Health, 36.5% of deaths are related to COVID-19.

“We do expect to see this month be the highest number of deaths we’ve experienced so far since the beginning of the pandemic. The people that are in our hospitals are very, very sick, and we’re seeing a continued increase of deaths due to COVID-19 across our region.”

Deaton said Ballad officials project September to be the deadliest month in the region since the pandemic erupted nearly a year and a half ago.

“A lagging indicator of this pandemic has been death,” Deaton said. “Sixty people have expired due to COVID-19 just in the last seven days. As I said earlier, one in three deaths that occur across the system are related to COVID-19 complications.

“As you read the number of discharges on our scorecard, you may not know, but those discharges also include deaths that happen across our system. We’ve seen more loss of life this month than we’ve seen in prior months. We do expect that to continue to increase over the next couple of weeks as we see the cases that we have had in the hospital before they start to decline.”

He continued by reminding the public that these statistics are more than numbers and charts — they’re made up of community members and loved ones.

Nearly 50% of the people who are placed on ventilators expire and don’t survive COVID-19,” Deaton said. “We have known for months that this primarily is made up of unvaccinated individuals. These are not just numbers; these are real people. These deaths have a great impact on many lives, and we’re very sorry for the loss of every single person that we have within our system.”

Ballad Health Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift broke down numbers within the system, comparing the stats between those who are vaccinated and those who are not.

“As of [Sept. 29], 305 of our 324 COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated — about 94%,” she said. “That number is even higher for patients receiving critical care. Ninety-eight percent of ICU patients are unvaccinated, and 99% of patients on ventilators are unvaccinated.”

Also announced at Wednesday’s briefing included an update on same-day elective surgeries, which will continue on Sept. 29, Ballad officials said.

While the Ballad Health COVID-19 briefings were weekly, officials announced on Wednesday that health leaders decided to provide in-depth updates every other week moving forward.

The following is a breakdown of Wednesday’s COVID-19 data provided by Ballad Health:

  • Total COVID-19 hospitalizations: 324 (-16)
  • Total number of COVID-19 PUIs (patient under investigation): 15 (-7)
  • Total COVID-19 admissions: 42 (-14)
  • Total COVID-19 discharges: 58 (+11)
  • COVID-19 patients in the Intensive Care Unit: 97
  • COVID-19 patients on a ventilator: 73 (+4)
  • Pediatric patients in Niswonger Children’s Hospital: 3 (-1)
  • Percent of population fully vaccinated: 42.6% (+1%)

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