Rising COVID-19 rates, Delta variant spread prompt Ballad Health to extend vaccination efforts
As novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases surge across the Appalachian Highlands, Ballad Health is ramping up efforts to protect community members through vaccinations.
The health system will extend its community vaccination center (CVC) in the Mall at Johnson City, Tennessee, to operate during Tennessee’s tax-free weekend this Saturday, July 31, from noon to 4 p.m. Vaccines are provided – free of charge, regardless of an individual’s insurance – to everyone age 12 and older. Walk-ins are welcome, and online scheduling for eligible patients is also available on the health system’s main webpage and its COVID-19 page, as well as the Ballad Health mobile app on Apple and Android smartphones and tablets.
The decision to open the CVC comes on the heels of rapid increases in regional COVID-19 cases and the encroaching spread of the Delta variant. On Friday, July 30, Ballad Health recorded 72 COVID-19 inpatients in its hospitals, a considerable leap from the 49 COVID-positive patients receiving care on Friday, July 23, and more than triple the number being treated on July 5.
Additionally, from July 18 to 24, the health system diagnosed 679 people with COVID-19, marking a 403% increase in weekly cases since mid-June. The region’s testing positivity rate has also climbed to 12.4%, up from 3.4% in early July and a far cry from the 5% goal.
Since March, 95% of the COVID-19-related deaths at Ballad Health have been patients with either no history of COVID-19 vaccination or an incomplete dose of the vaccine. Similarly, 95% of COVID-19 patients admitted to Ballad Health facilities since March are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.
The health system has experienced a significant decline in the number of vaccines administered in its community vaccination center and mobile vaccination clinics. Ballad Health administered 272 first doses and 181 second doses in June, but only 72 first doses and 100 second doses so far in July.
After tax-free weekend, Ballad Health’s CVC is open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2 to 7 p.m. Community members must bring a photo ID when they arrive for their vaccine, and healthcare workers should bring their work ID badge. Second doses will be scheduled when patients check in, and everyone must be observed for at least 15 minutes after receiving the shot to monitor for any possible side effects. Children and teenagers from 12 to 17 years old must have a parent or guardian with them at all Ballad Health CVCs. Masks are still required in all Ballad Health facilities, which include CVCs and mobile vaccination events.
To date, Ballad Health has provided more than 44,000 first-dose and 43,000 second-dose vaccines to eligible people in the Appalachian Highlands.
Additionally, in continuing its ongoing fight against COVID-19, Ballad Health still maintains a strong presence in testing, with six drive-through testing sites in the region. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms and believes they might have been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to call Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523. Community members can also schedule COVID-19 testing online or through the Ballad Health mobile app. All Ballad Health testing sites offer same-day results.
Furthermore, Ballad Health offers a Center for Post-COVID Care, which creates an access point to comprehensive clinical care for patients who are struggling with post-COVID symptoms. The center operates as a virtual care model where a navigator is assigned to patients with long-term symptoms and coordinates between primary and specialty care providers across a range of services, including pulmonary rehabilitation, behavioral health, cardiovascular care and support groups.
COVID-19 news and updates will continue to be shared on the COVID-19 information section of the website.