Ballad Press Conference - 11/18

Ballad Health COO Eric Deaton looks down at his notes during Wednesday's press conference. 

Ballad Health officials cautioned against gathering with people outside of your household on Thanksgiving during their weekly novel coronavirus (COVID-19) press briefing Wednesday.

Ballad Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift warned that there’s “no reason to think we won’t see another dramatic increase” in the weeks after the holiday.

“It’s honestly overwhelming — I’m extremely concerned, I’m more concerned about Thanksgiving probably than anything I’ve been concerned about because of where we’re currently at,” Swift said, adding “that we’re looking at some really concerning days ahead. “I think it’s going to get really hard over the next few weeks.”

In recent weeks the hospital system has seen a record number of new cases, new hospitalizations and inpatients with the virus, with Swift saying “we really have no reason to be optimistic that the next week will be any better.

Eric Deaton, Ballad’s chief operating officer, said it’s important to look at the data as people and not just numbers as he pleaded for people to “start paying attention to this before it becomes too late for them.”

The system’s current surge plan gives it capacity to care for 350 patients, with subsequent plans being readied to increase capacity to 375 in early December, “created through the elimination of certain surgical cases, primarily.” Deaton said ICU beds are at a premium, with only around two dozen currently available — prompting the system to look at converting post-anesthesia care units into intensive care units.

Ballad’s in-house modeling predicts it could surpass 350 hospitalizations before the end of the year.

“These enormous daily counts will, over the next two-to-four weeks, lead to more hospitalizations and more deaths and frankly, with Thanksgiving next week, we’re a little concerned and a little frightened at what happens through the rest of the year,” Swift said, who later said “if we continue on this path, it is only a matter of time before someone who needs care can’t receive it because COVID-19 has overrun our hospitals and our frontline team members.”

Swift, who noted her family canceled their Thanksgiving plans they’ve had for a year due to the pandemic, said the only safe way to celebrate Thanksgiving is by doing it with those you live with.

“The only safe way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to have dinner with your immediate household,” Swift said. “For guests, especially those traveling, the only truly safe practice would have been quarantine for 14 days paired with a negative test. Now that we’re eight days away from Thanksgiving, that option is no longer available.

“I’ve seen several people sharing things saying ‘this might be someone’s last Thanksgiving, I don’t want to miss it because of this virus’,” Swift said later. “I challenge you to not let your Thanksgiving dinner be the reason that someone does have their last Thanksgiving.”

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