Ballad Health: Nearly 90% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients unvaccinated

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Ballad Health officials revealed Wednesday that as its hospitals toil to care for the surge of COVID-19 patients, 88.4% of these patients are not vaccinated against the virus.

Of the 201 COVID-19 patients in Ballad hospitals Wednesday, only 21 patients were fully vaccinated.

Sixty-one patients remain in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU); fully vaccinated patients accounted for four of these cases.

Forty-one unvaccinated patients are depending on a ventilator compared to the three fully vaccinated patients on ventilators.

These numbers continue to climb to those seen during the winter surge in COVID-19 cases.

You can watch News Channel 11’s stream of the briefing below:

Ballad Health’s Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said that last December before COVID-19 vaccines were widely available, 48 patients were depending on a ventilator — mere digits off from Wednesday’s rate.

“As a percentage, we have a much higher number now on ventilators than we had earlier with the first surge that we had,” Deaton said. “Our ICUs are also getting very full. We had 10-12 ICU beds available at midnight last night.”

As ICU availability diminishes, health care professionals experience an overwhelming workload. Teams across Ballad’s facilities continue to grapple with bed shortages.

“Our ICU across the system were at 95% capacity,” Deaton said. “So, what happens then is you have to start stretching your resources more and more.”

One 30-year veteran nurse resigned due to the heavy volume of incoming patients as Ballad continues to struggle with a lack of staff, according to Deaton. Five retired nurses and respiratory therapists have returned to the workforce to help offset the burden, but the health system still needs more.

“We would really appreciate your support,” Deaton said. “Very flexible on hours and times that you would work.”

Apart from the soaring COVID-19 cases, one concern among health officials is the difference in patients’ age groups. Thirty-five percent of those diagnosed with COVID-19 are 18 years old or younger.

Ballad Health professionals continue to encourage mask-wearing indoors, including in the classroom.

Additionally, the health care system is offering COVID-19 booster shots to the immunocompromised at its community vaccination clinics.

“It’s wise if you’re in one of those categories to understand that and give yourself another chance for better immunity and survival if you were to get the virus by taking your third booster dose,” Chief Physician Executive Dr. Clay Runnels said.

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