Ballad Health: Tri-Cities on track to exceed last winter’s COVID-19 surge by next week

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — On Jan. 5, 2021, Ballad Health reported the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients during the winter surge.

Ballad Health officials said Wednesday that the Tri-Cities is on track to surpass that peak of 361 hospitalized COVID-19 patients within the next week.

Watch the full Ballad Health COVID-19 update below:

As the Delta variant runs rampant throughout the region, health experts revealed a sobering fact: the overall average age among COVID-19 cases continues to drop.

Of the 11 children receiving treatment for COVID-19 at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, six remain in the PICU, according to Ballad. Those under 18 years of age account for 28% of COVID-19 cases being diagnosed at Ballad Health facilities.

Dr. Myesa Emberesh with the St. Jude affiliate clinic at Niswonger said that as the virus spreads, it mutates and infects more children.

“Last year, kids who contracted COVID-19 were mostly asymptomatic,” Emberesh said. “But now, more children are getting sick because we’re allowing this virus to spread. The more it spreads, the more it mutates.

“Many of these children are younger than 12 and do not qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine. They are the most vulnerable people in our region. I don’t want to see COVID-19 rip through the bodies of children with cancer. I don’t want to see them gasping for breath managing other symptoms on top of those from chemotherapy.”

Emberesh urged those who have received the shots to get vaccinated to protect those who are unable to take that step against the virus.

Ballad Health’s 21-county service area has lower vaccination rates than compared to Tennessee as a whole. According to the system, only 39.7% are fully vaccinated, in contrast to Tennessee’s statewide fully vaccinated rate of 41.7%.

Across the state line in Virginia, 57.3% of the population are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Ballad Health Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift revealed that of the 331 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 310 are unvaccinated — a staggering 93.65% compared to 6.34% who are vaccinated.

Those who are vaccinated yet hospitalized due to COVID-19 average around the age of 69 years old, while the average age of hospitalized, unvaccinated patients sits at 58.9 years.

Seventy-seven patients remain in the ICU; more than 96% of those patients have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Of the 48 patients depending on ventilators, 47 patients are unvaccinated.

“The only way to get this to end is to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Swift said.

She reminded the public that Ballad continues its vaccination efforts at The Mall at Johnson City from 2-7 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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