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Monday, Apr 18, 2022

Ballad Health suspends COVID-19 Corporate Emergency Operations Center, removes restrictions

With a sustained drop in novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Ballad Health facilities and across the Appalachian Highlands, Ballad Health is loosening restrictions and ending certain COVID-related programs to embrace moving back to once-normal healthcare practices.

Effective Monday, April 18, the health system will remove all COVID-related visitation restrictions in its offices and facilities. It will also stand down some COVID-19 contingencies and programs, such as the Corporate Emergency Operations Center (CEOC), crisis staffing and the Safe at Home care models.

These changes are the result of significantly fewer regional COVID-19 cases. Ballad Health’s COVID-19 scorecard on April 18 showed 28 inpatients fighting COVID-19, down from an all-time high of 454 patients hospitalized on Feb. 8.

New cases of COVID-19 also continue to fall across the Appalachian Highlands, mirroring similar trends reported across the state and country. From April 7-14, active COVID-19 cases in the region dropped to 20.1 per 100,000 residents, compared to 23 the prior week.

Download our COVID-19 scorecard for the Appalachian Highlands [PDF, 225 KB]

“We are grateful to see the drop in COVID-19 cases across our region, and we welcome some normalcy back to our hospitals and our clinics,” said Eric Deaton, Ballad Health’s chief operating officer and incident commander of its CEOC. “We are remaining diligent in caring for and monitoring COVID-19 cases across the Appalachian Highlands, and we will be flexible and responsive as the situation changes so we can keep our communities safe and meet everyone’s healthcare needs.”

Visitation restrictions

Ballad Health is removing restrictions to visitation in all facilities and will now welcome visitors between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. This includes inpatient and outpatient units, Ballad Health Medical Associates offices, emergency departments and pediatric services:

  • Per the standard Ballad Health visitation policy, each patient may have two adult visitors at a time between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. They do not have to designate two specific visitors for the entire length of their stay.
  • Children over the age of 12 may visit hospitalized patients. Younger visitors are permitted if they are siblings of newborn patients or in end-of-life situations.
  • All visitors ages 2 and over are required to wear a mask when visiting patients in the hospital.
  • All children must have an adult with them while visiting the hospital.
  • Two visitors at a time will be permitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Visitors must be a parent, guardian or grandparent of the patient(s). Grandparents must be accompanied by the parent/guardian of the patient to visit. Siblings will not be allowed in the NICU at this time.
  • One visitor may remain with a patient overnight, and this visitor must be in the facility prior to 8 p.m. and remain in the patient’s room until 8 a.m. If that visitor leaves the facility at any point in the night, he or she will not be permitted re-entry until 8 a.m.
  • Visitation for behavioral health must be scheduled and approved prior to the visit, based on therapeutic indications.
  • Waiting rooms are open to visitors. In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), masks will be required in waiting rooms.

Updated masking guidelines

Ballad Health is committed to keeping all visitors, team members and patients safe. Even though COVID-19 inpatient hospital censuses and cases across the region remain low, all visitors and Ballad Health team members are still required to wear a mask in all patient care and public areas, such as in waiting rooms, hallways and cafeterias. Masks may be removed during eating and drinking.

The health system will no longer require masks for vaccinated Ballad Health team members working in non-patient care areas, such as a private office space.

Corporate Emergency Operations Center

Effective today, April 18, Ballad Health will also suspend its Corporate Emergency Operations Center (CEOC), which was activated when the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the Appalachian Highlands in March 2020.

With the CEOC no longer formally meeting, Ballad Health will also cease sending weekly COVID-19 scorecards, with the April 18 edition being the last.

Ballad Health sincerely thanks everyone for their Herculean efforts in supporting the CEOC for the last 777 days. The health system continues to vigilantly monitor the COVID-19 situation in the Appalachian Highlands and will continue doing all it can to serve our communities.

Staffing and care models

In another response to the decrease in COVID-19 cases, Ballad Health has suspended the Safe at Home program, which was intended to relieve healthcare workers and hospital beds when certain COVID-19 cases could receive appropriate virtual treatment.

The program proved to be a great success, keeping hundreds of COVID-19 patients safe at home under Ballad Health medical supervision virtually or by phone. Safe at Home prevented COVID-19 inpatient cases from rising even higher, caring for more than 300 patients at a time.

Ballad Health remains committed to caring for current patients in the program, and they will receive full at-home treatment until they are past their active COVID-19 symptoms. The Safe at Home program will be activated if COVID-19 cases rise again.

The health system has also ceased drive-thru COVID-19 testing at Ballad Health Medical Associates Urgent Care locations, though it will continue testing urgent care patients. Patients who seek COVID-19 testing will be redirected to their closest urgent care, primary care or pharmacy that offers this service. Patients are encouraged to check community resources or call their primary care provider for testing availability.

COVID-19 prevention

Ballad Health continues to encourage everyone to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot, as it has been proven to help protect people from COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends additional boosters for certain individuals:

A second booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines is recommended for people ages 50 and older at least four months after receipt of a first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.

  • A second booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine may be administered to people 12 and older with certain kinds of immunocompromise at least four months after receipt of a first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.
    • These are people who have undergone solid organ transplantation, or who are living with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.
  • A second booster dose of the Moderna vaccine may be given at least four months after the first booster dose of any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine to people 18 and older with the same certain kinds of immunocompromise.
  • Adults who received a primary vaccine and booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least four months ago may now receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Learn more about COVID-19.

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