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Ballad Health officials urge continuing to follow guidelines

Optimism and caution were among the highlights of Ballad Health’s weekly media briefing on Wednesday. 
Health officials warned that while trends of hospitalizations and positivity rate with COVID-19 are going down, now is not the time to relax on following guidelines.
“We’re optimistic about that, but certainly still here to say the pandemic is not over,” said Jamie Swift, Chief Infection Prevention Officer. “We cannot get complacent and feel comfortable that our numbers are down to where they need to be.”
Swift referenced an announcement made by the governor of Virginia yesterday in which he mentioned the Southwest region of the Commonwealth has one of its highest positivity rates at 8.1 percent. 
“Not only is that high for the Commonwealth, but it’s also higher than the overall positivity rate in our service area,” she said. “Even though that number is still better than a month ago, it shows we still have a long way to go.”
Eric Deaton, Chief Operating Officer, showed the latest graphs in relation to the virus.
While there is a good trend downwards, he was optimistic in caution. Deaton warned that guidelines must be continuously followed.
Additionally, there is still a belief that there could be an uptick around the first of October as flu season begins. 
With warnings for continued guidelines for COVID-19, cautions for the flu were also included.
The public is being urged by officials to be vaccinated in the next few weeks before the flu season begins as prevention before it happens.
Swift stressed that this year in particular is crucial to take preventative measures against the flu. There is worry a flu surge along with COVID-19 could overwhelm healthcare systems. 
While little to no research has been conducted into the effects the flu could have on the body should a case occur along with COVID-19 in a patient as well, Dr. Clay Runnels, Chief Physician Executive, warned that it could be a very serious condition if a person also has comorbidities. 
It was explained at the briefing that social distancing and masking go hand-in-hand.
When individuals are in an area where they cannot social distance, masking is essential. Likewise, just because you are outdoors does not mean a mask is not needed. 
Those who have recovered from the virus are still being asked to consider donating convalescent plasma, which is believed to help those critically ill with the virus. 
For the latest information on Ballad Health, go to www.balladhealth.org. To find out about qualifying to donate convalescent plasma, call the Marsh Regional Blood Center at 423-203-5640.