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Ballad Health urges Thanksgiving caution, shares hope for vaccine

What’s it like working with those critically ill from COVID-19?
Nina Baker, a physician therapist at Bristol Regional, shared her experience during Ballad Health’s weekly media briefing on Tuesday. 
“When the pandemic began, I volunteered to be a part of the team to treat COVID-19 patients because I have experience with multiple airway treatments, such as ventilators, high-flow cannulas and BiPAP,” she explained. 
Baker said she knew her background could prove vital with those who were critically ill. These patients need help staying mobile, maintaining strength and endurance, preventing blood clots, etc. She said some patients come in with oxygen levels at 100 percent while laying down, but drop significantly just by sitting up. 
“I am very cautious when treating my COVID-19 patients, and I take a lot of time with each one,” she said. 
During the long road of medical stays, sometimes in the ICU, patients spend quite a bit of time with healthcare workers like Baker. Those hospitalized do not get to have visitors or even leave their rooms.
“Several patients have spent their birthdays with us,” she said. “Last week, one family brought their mom a cake for her birthday. Then later that day she was intubated and passed away.”
Another patient Baker spoke of was a father who left behind young children, never getting to say goodbye. 
Baker stressed that the virus does not discriminate with age. 
“This virus is not just affecting the elderly. We have intubated patients in their 20s and have seen patients in their 30s and 40s die, leaving young children at home,” she said. 
Baker said the loss of life is the hardest part of the job, noting the high numbers of loss despite healthcare workers giving everything they can to save their patients. 
As of Tuesday, Nov. 24 (during the briefing), there were 211 in-house patients, with 44 in the ICU and 29 on ventilators, as well as one PUI. There were also 225 Ballad team members in quarantine. While the numbers have dropped slightly, Jamie Swift, Chief Infection Prevention Officer, explained that this does little to ease the burden on team members. 
“There is still rampant virus spread in our communities,” she warned. 
Swift went on to urge the public to follow guidelines when celebrating Thanksgiving this week, such as dining with household members only. 
Eric Deaton, Chief Operating Officer, presented the latest COVID-19 models and spoke of an identified cluster. He said one has been identified at Wexford House where 36 team members and 52 residents tested positive. They are working closely with the Department of Health and following all CDC and CMS guidance. 
Good news also came forward during the briefing. Progress is being made toward a vaccine. The effectiveness of Pfizer has now increased to 95 percent. Moderna showed 94.5 percent effectiveness and AstraZeneca is up to 90 percent. 
“This data is very encouraging and we’re looking forward to the next steps,” said Deaton. 
For the latest information from Ballad Health, go to www.balladhealth.org.

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