JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Leaders with Ballad Health and Region AHEAD rallied early Tuesday morning to cheer on health care workers as they continue to treat COVID-19 patients — many receiving treatment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

From 5:30-8 a.m. they greeted health care workers filing in for morning shifts or leaving their overnight shifts at Johnson City Medical Center.

Groups gathered at both the Main Hospital entrance and Heart Hospital, holding up signs, cheering and greeting the doctors, nurses and other staff members.

Lisa Carter, CEO of Niswonger Children’s Hospital, said they hosted a rally last year, but it felt like the right time to do another.

“Obviously, we’re seeing a surge of cases in our region; we’re seeing a huge surge within this hospital of hospital admissions, both in our pediatric patients and our adult patients,” said Carter. “We felt it was really necessary to get out here and make sure our team members know that they’re supported.”

Interim CEO Kenny Shafer said they currently have twice the number of ICU patients that they have ever had before and are well beyond the volume of patients they had at the same time last year.

He said this is taking a toll on health care workers. Beyond showing appreciation, Shafer said the community needs to do its part.

“The first thing is to get vaccinated,” said Shafer. “Protect themselves, protect their family. 95% of the people we have in the hospital aren’t vaccinated. The other would be to wear a mask in public if you’re indoors; wear a mask to help prevent the spread.”

Region AHEAD is also working to get the community and businesses involved in showing thanks.

“Region AHEAD is going to give an opportunity later this week on their website to be able to donate money so we can have food trucks, box lunches and meals catered to the hospital staff that is affected by COVID-19 the most,” said Andy Dietrich, Region AHEAD.

Both leaders from Ballad and Region AHEAD said they hope to have more rallies like this in the future and ask community members to take time to thank the health care workers in their lives.