‘Everyone’s goal is to get it into an arm’: Ballad Health administers about 30,000 COVID-19 vaccines

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) After treating a record number of COVID-19 patients over the holidays, the Tri-Cities region’s health care system has reported a drop in hospitalizations every day for the last week.

Ballad Health reports it has 230 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, which is a decrease of 15 from Monday.

Of these hospitalizations, 57 patients are in intensive care. Thirty-three are on ventilators. Ballad Health its encouraged by vaccinations but as News Channel Pheben Kassahun reported, officials are warning our region is not in the clear yet.

Since December 16, Ballad Health has administered more than 21,000 first dose vaccines, and more than 9,000 second vaccines.

“Everyone’s goal is to get it into an arm,” chief infection prevention officer, Jamie Swift said.

Ballad Health officials said they are in contact with every health department in the region to make sure that if ballad health has any extra vaccines, they’ll be able to distribute them.

“Our total to Sullivan County at the time when they had not received any was 3,000. 975 of those were given back. We do have 975 that is going to the Northeast Region this week,” Swift said.

In the meantime, the health care system has seen a decline in its positive cases for the 21 county service area. The testing positivity rate has also decreased from over 35% to now 25.4% over a 7 day period.

Ballad Health chief physician executive, Clay Runnel said, “This week, we’re at 4,011; down from 5,530 the week before.”

Ballad officials are emphasizing that the region is in the clear, as its goal is to have a 5% or less positivity rate.

Runnels said, “We’re very excited about the fact that we didn’t see a huge post-Christmas surge. So, being wrong about that is something that is really good. That means people really did the right thing over the holiday, and to a large extent, avoided exposure to COVID-19.”

Additionally, Ballad Health reports 140 team members are in quarantine either due to testing positive or potentially having coronavirus, due to symptoms.

Also on the health system’s radar: the more contagious COVID-19 variant strain that’s been detected in other states.

“The race to a vaccine and to get vaccines in arms as many people in our population, hopefully before the variant can get here,” Swift said. “The variant is more contagious: not more severe. Obviously, it’s more contagious, we’re going to have more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths. So, the way to prevent that is to just keep doing what we’re doing: masks, hand washing, social distancing and vaccine.”

Ballad Health also gave an update on its “Safe at Home Program”, designed to address capacity. There are about 250 patients with less-severe symptoms enrolled, receiving treatment at home through telehealth services.

To view the entire Ballad Health press conference in its entirety below:

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