Ballad Health encourages continued mask use ahead of upcoming flu season

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — As we approach the flu months, Ballad Health officials are encouraging everyone to continue wearing masks, even if the mask mandates end.

Right now, the COVID-19 positivity rate for the health system sits at 6.8 percent.

News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun reports on how officials are hoping that decreases even more before flu season it at its peak.

Ballad Health officials are feeling very optimistic about the COVID-19 trends in the region but do not want anyone to become complacent, especially as we vastly approach flu season.

“Even if our mandates start to expire, we want to encourage people to continue to wear your mask, whether it’s a mandate or not,” Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift said.

It’s a tale of two viruses, and Ballad Health officials say everyone needs to remain focused.

Swift said: “If we let up on our masking, social distancing and go into transmission of flu and COVID, you could start to see a very high circulation of both.”

As doctors race to create a vaccine for COVID-19, Swift says now is the time to get a flu vaccine.

“Flu season officially starts October 1st. That’s when we start tracking numbers, looking for cases, those various things. Typically, it runs through March. Sometimes it runs through April and May,” Swift said.

“Our new cases again flattening out, declining since August and new hospitalizations as well, trending downward,”Chief Physician Executive Dr. Clay Runnels said. “The death rate as we’ve talked about before is a lagging indicator and has not declined yet. “

Runnels said the health system has received 550 units of plasma donated. 412 units have been used on patients.

He said the need for blood is even greater.

“There’s been a national shortage of blood and blood donations are just as important in Appalachian Highlands,” Dr. Runnels said.

Health officials are also highly encouraging anyone who feels they are at risk or those who may have been exposed to call Nurse Connect for a COVID-19 test.

Testing is widely available in the region and will be done for anyone with or without symptoms.

Ballad Health says right now it has 75 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Eight of those patients are in intensive care and 6 are on ventilators.

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