‘Keep fighting with us’: Ballad Health leaders plea not to give up as vaccine trials show ray of hope for Tri-Cities region


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — While the number of hospitalizations have flattened at Ballad Health facilities, the health care system continues to see a rise in the number of deaths in the last few weeks.

Ballad Health stated November has now become the deadliest month for COVID-19-related deaths.

Through November 21, 97 deaths have occurred in its facilities. Last month, there were 82 deaths reported.

It is all devastating information, but Ballad Health leaders explained there is light at the end of the tunnel.

With more pharmaceutical giants releasing their latest vaccine trials, most recently AstraZeneca, Ballad Health leaders are releasing more information about how it plans to administer the vaccine, but officials said the community must recognize our role in this pandemic and to take it responsibly.

Ballad Health chief infection prevention officer, Jamie Swift said, “Our team members are fighting everyday to help our patients, but honestly, the truth is we are not the frontline. The community and you are our frontlines.”

As November becomes the deadliest month for COVID-19 related deaths, health officials plead not to give up.

Swift said, “Please continue to keep fighting with us and our health line workers.”

The Tri-Cities region currently sits at 18% for its positivity rate.

This is more than double the Commonwealth of Virginia’s with 7.4%, and the state of Tennessee’s which sits at 14.8%, according to health officials.

“We know at this point, your turkeys have been bought, your plans are made,” Swift said. “If you’re planning a get-together, all I can do is ask that you do it in the safest way possible. Please implement as many safety measures as you can.”

A ray of hope, however, sits on the horizon. This week, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca reported its COVID-19 vaccine is 70% effective, on average.

“Any vaccines that we offer, we’ll make sure that they have gone through the appropriate reviews and clinical trials before efficacy and safety,” Ballad Health chief operating officer, Eric Deaton said.

Ballad Health is working on plans for vaccine. The healthcare system has two regional work groups working on the vaccine and how to deploy it.

“There will be two tiers of groups that are given vaccines. So, groups such as our frontline workers, healthcare workers, people who are especially vulnerable to the disease and death,” Deaton said.

As supplies increase and as more vaccines gain approvals, Deaton said more doses will become available to the public.

“The CDC, in what we have read, estimates that all adults should be vaccinated no later than the end of 2021,” Deaton added.

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