Ballad Health on Wednesday reported 78 novel coronavirus-related hospitalizations across the system, the lowest they’ve reported since July 25 — a trend Ballad’s Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift called “very positive” during a press conference.

Swift, however, continued to caution against complacency.

“We’re optimistic about that, but certainly here to say the pandemic is not over,” Swift said. “We cannot get complacent and feel comfortable that our numbers are down (until they are) where they need to be.’’

As of Wednesday morning, there were 78 COVID-19 patients at Ballad facilities, the first time that number has dipped below 80 since July 25. Swift said patient occupancy was at 96%, while ICU capacity was 92.9%. The system reported having 49 available COVID-19 beds, as well.

Of those hospitalized, 12 were in intensive care and eight were on ventilators — with both metrics on a steady downward trend over the last few weeks. During the 21 reported days in August (data isn’t reported on weekends), Ballad averaged 23.6 ICU patients and 13.9 ventilator patients, compared to 15.5 and 10.3 through 12 reported days this month.

In Ballad’s 21-county service area, which spans Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, new hospitalizations appear to have peaked at 97 the week of Aug. 9-15. Last week, Sept. 6-12, there were 54 new hospitalizations.

“I do believe (the decrease is because of) the community coming together and doing the right thing over the past several months,” Ballad’s Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said.

Officials also cautioned against the upcoming flu season, and urged people to get their flu shots.

“We talked about it last week, but if we see a severe flu season and continue to see the spread of COVID that we’re seeing — even at this lower level — it’s really going to stress our healthcare system,” Swift said.

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