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Some factors affecting the recent decline of COVID 19 in area

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Although the recent week”s number has continued to show a decline in COVID 19 cases in the 21 county area served by Ballad Health, now is not the time to let up as the trend continues on a downward trajectory.

Those were the sentiments urged by Dr. Clay Runnels, Chief Physician Executive for Ballad Health during this week’s Ballad Health update to local media.

“There is still a community spread of COVID 19 in the region,” said Dr. Runnels. “We have seen a steady decline in positive cases from 5,530 a few weeks ago to 4,011 now.

“The positivity rate was well over 35 percent a few weeks ago. The ideal rate would be five percent or less. We are currently 10 percent above the state average.

“December was the deadliest month and we have shown a slight improvement in the first few days of January.”

Dr. Runnels said some factors that have played into the decline is that people have been doing the right thing over the holidays. He also said there are currently 140 Ballad team members who are in quarantine either for testing positive or being around someone who was positive.

Jamie Swift, Chief Infection Prevention Officer for Ballad Health, echoed Dr. Runnels’s comments saying, “If we let up, we know what will happen. The variant strain is on the horizon and to be prepared is to continue doing what we are doing and try to get the vaccine in the arms as soon as possible.

“The variant is much more contagious which means more hospitalizations if we don’t keep doing what we are doing.”

Swift added it was extremely concerning with the variant drawing close and the number one job right now is to plan ahead and that means keeping numbers going down.

“It’s stressful on everyone,” Swift added. “That’s why we meet with the health departments as the demand for vaccine far exceeds our supply.

“It’s all about a week to week determinations. We don’t want to plan too far ahead in regard to the vaccine.”

The positivity rate on Thursday was at 22.9 percent while 83 deaths have been recorded in the last seven days. There are 226 COVID-19 patients in the hospital with 48 patients in the Intensive Care Unit. 33 patients are currently on ventilators.

New COVID-19 admissions for the health system were 34 while 37 patients were discharged after being treated for COVID-19. There were four patients under investigation.

Currently, the health system has 69 beds available for new COVID-19 admissions. Since March 1, 2020, there have been a total of 78,221 positive COVID-19 cases that have been diagnosed with 1,397 total deaths in the 21-county area.

As far as vaccines administered, Ballad has given 23,171 first doses while the second doses total 11,006.

**Note – late in the day on Thursday, Ballad Health released the following statement regarding vaccines:
“Due to changes in the policy related to allocation and distribution of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines by the
Tennessee Department of Health, Ballad Health is winding down its Tennessee-based community vaccination centers (CVCs) in Kingsport and Bristol.

The CVCs in Kingsport and Bristol will cease giving the first doses of the vaccine on Saturday, Jan. 23, while its center in Johnson City will provide its final first dose on Friday, Jan. 22.

All three Tennessee centers will still provide second-dose vaccines to everyone who received their first shot.” #balladhealth #SpreadRespectNotCOVID

For more information, please visit https://www.balladhealth.org/…/tn-state-vaccination

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