Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have reached a new high this week as the virus continues to surge in the state.
There were 3,501 patients hospitalized statewide on Wednesday, surpassing January’s record 3,351.
As hospitals strain to serve their patients, several East Tennessee health systems urge vaccination.
“We continue to believe that vaccination is the fastest and most effective way out of the pandemic,” reads a statement from Covenant Health, which operates Cumberland Medical Center in Crossville, and other health care providers Blount Memorial Hospital, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Sweetwater Hospital Association, Tennova Healthcare and The University of Tennessee Medical Center.
“Our hospital organizations are joining together to urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Across our health systems, more than 80% of people who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated.”
Vaccine testing, clinical trials and worldwide results show the vaccine is safe and effective, the health care leaders said. The Pfizer vaccine, a two-dose series of shots, was granted full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in patients 16 and older. It also has emergency approval for people as young as 12.
Approval included data from the phase 3 clinical trials, which monitored more than half the participants for at least four months after their second dose.
The two-dose Moderna vaccine has filed for full FDA approval and is currently authorized for people 18 and older.
A one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is authorized for use in patients 18 years and older.
“It greatly reduces the likelihood of contracting or spreading the virus, being hospitalized or dying as a result of COVID-19,” the statement continues. “It also significantly lowers our communities’ risk of experiencing another viral surge. If you are hesitant about receiving the vaccine, please discuss your concerns with your health care provider so you can make an educated decision based on factual information.”
The Tennessee Department of Health reported 826 active cases in Cumberland County on Tuesday. Over the past week, the county averaged a COVID-19 testing positivity rate of 28%. There have been 153 deaths of county residents since the pandemic began in March 2020, with 217 residents hospitalized.
At Cumberland Medical Center, there were 41 patients either confirmed or suspected to have the virus, with 28 cases confirmed. Of those patients, 93% were unvaccinated. All COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit were unvaccinated.
Covenant Health reported 387 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations across its nine hospitals, with 323 confirmed cases. The health care system reported 84% of all COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated and 84% of ICU patients were unvaccinated. The average age of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients is 60, and 59 for ICU patients.
The hospitals noted that the surge in cases is coming at a time when hospitals are also facing struggles with staffing, which is lower than when the pandemic began. Several hospitals in East Tennessee are relying on personnel from the Tennessee National Guard to assist with the staffing shortage.
“Even with this assistance, as more people come to our hospitals, we still have fewer health care professionals to provide care,” the statement continued.
The staffing shortage and increase in emergency cases has resulted in longer wait times for area emergency departments.
“Our dedicated physicians and hospital staffs are working hard to care for COVID-19 patients as well as those who are experiencing heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening illnesses and conditions. A significant amount of our hospitals’ current bed capacity is being used by COVID-19 patients,” the statement said. “We all need to do our part to prevent the escalating spread of the virus to make sure local hospitals are here when you need us, regardless of the type of care you need. We know that anxieties and emotions can be high during hospital visits. We appreciate your patience and ask that you treat our health care heroes with the kindness and respect they deserve.”
Hospitals encourage anyone with low-grade fever, cough or sore throat, or anyone in need of COVID-19 testing to call their primary care provider or visit an urgent care facility rather than going to an emergency department.
Individuals with a life-threatening illness or serious injury are urged to seek emergency treatment without hesitation.
“Our collective commitment is to be there when you need us most. Be assured that our teams are working tirelessly and selflessly to provide you with the care that you need,” the statement continued.
Other mitigation efforts the community can take include mask wearing and social distancing when in public.
“Again, we strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” the statement continues.
Cumberland County Health Department
1503 S. Main St.
9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
No appointment necessary
Or, find a provider at vaccine.gov