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Concerns abound around COVID testing

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Ballad Health provided their weekly update to members of the media surrounding current hospitalizations and the concern that the community is not getting tested for COVID-19 meaning there could be a lot more people infected than are showing in the numbers.

“We talked last week about how we are extremely concerned about the lower testing volume,” said Ballad Health Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift. “I continue to have that concern.

“Obviously, as your testing volume goes down, that may drive the positivity rate up some, but if you are seeing that high of a positivity rate it tells you that there is much more virus in the community than we know or are seeing in our numbers.”

Swift also added that the rate of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations overall is not letting up.

“Just this week we broke the previous record for positivity rate with more than one in three people testing for COVID-19 receiving a positive result,” Swift stated.

Swift shared the numbers with local media showing that since March 1, 2020, when reporting began, 74,200 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 in the counties covered by Ballad.

There have been a total of 1,303 deaths contributed to the virus with 102 of those deaths coming in the last seven days.

With the decline in testing, the positivity rate fell just below 30 percent for the week at 29.1 percent for the last seven days.

Currently, there are 321 patients in the hospital being treated for COVID with 30 new admissions and 47 discharges.

Five patients are awaiting test results for COVID as the health system now has 65 beds available for COVID patients.

There are 67 patients in the Intensive Care Unit with 43 being on ventilators.

During the briefing, Swift shared that to date there have been 18,362 first dose COVID-19 vaccine administered while 6,747 individuals have been given their second dose.

Swift also informed the media that the number of flu cases are down as the flu is less contagious than COVID and the things that are being done to fight COVID is having an impact on the flu.

Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton also added that the health system doesn’t know if they have hit their peak due to the slowing down of testing while more vaccines are being given in the community.

“The next couple of weeks we should know more,” Deaton stated.

Deaton also wanted to get the word out to anyone that has had COVID-19 that blood plasma is needed to help those in that are in the hospital.

On a national level, the United States reported the single-day highest rate for deaths on Tuesday with 4,406. In total, 381,000 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 nationwide.

Putting that in perspective, during World War II, 407,000 Americans died.