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COVID-19 hospitalizations are beginning to drop

Employees vaccinations have also topped 80%, due in large part to the looming vaccination deadline.
Nicole Latusick, a respiratory therapist, takes a rest between patients in ATRMC’s ICU.

Although Asante hospitals are still overwhelmed, the COVID-19 hospitalization curve is showing promising signs. Caseloads have fallen nearly every day, from a high of nearly 190 in August to 96 on Tuesday, the lowest count since the surge began. This trend follows the model produced by Oregon Health & Science University, which estimated that Asante would see the surge peak the week of Sept. 4.

The reasons could be due to a confluence of forces: an slight uptick in vaccinations, increased capacity in post-discharge care facilities and a rise in monoclonal antibody treatments.

Jackson County’s immunization rate has risen to 62%, up from about 45% this past spring. State-funded COVID recovery units have opened in skilled nursing facilities, easing the pressure on hospitals. At the height of the surge, as many as 60 patients were boarding in Asante hospitals waiting for a bed in a rehab facility.

To help keep people diagnosed with COVID out of the hospital, Asante opened a second monoclonal antibody clinic on Aug. 30. The Medford site at Black Oak Medical Plaza offers drive-thru injections to patients with a doctor’s referral. The antibody clinic inside Asante Ashland, which opened last December, provides infusion therapy. Monoclonal antibody therapy has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms in high-risk, recently diagnosed patients.

Despite the decline in hospitalizations, overall COVID volumes remain in the “red zone” at all three Asante hospitals. In Josephine County, where the vaccination rate is still a relatively low 56%, ATRMC is seeing a disproportionate number of high-acuity COVID cases and deaths. Over the past 90 days, ATRMC reported 81 COVID deaths compared with 55 at ARRMC and 11 at AACH. Of the combined 147 hospital deaths, 84% of those patients were unvaccinated.

To ease staffing shortages, temporary support has begun to arrive, with 40 contract nurses starting last week and 35 more expected this week. On Sept. 27, another 48 will be onboarded.

Meanwhile, employee vaccinations have risen to over 80%, a significant increase after hovering around 65% for several weeks. This is due largely to the governor’s mandate and Asante’s policy that all health care employees be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or have an approved exception. See details in the FAQs.

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