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“We’re running out of options, we need your help”

Local health leaders, including Asante’s Jamie Grebosky, MD, and Amanda Kotler, issue a plea to the public: Get vaccinated and wear a mask.

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Local public health and hospital leaders are asking the public to help slow the spread of COVID-19’s delta variant and ease the pressure on hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-positive patients.

Speaking at a joint news conference on Thursday, Amanda Kotler, vice president of Nursing for ARRMC and AACH, said COVID cases account for 35% of the adult patients hospitalized at Asante facilities. Ninety-four percent of those patients are unvaccinated.

“These patients are younger and sicker than ever before,” she said. “We have 39 patients in critical care and 23 are on ventilators. Our hospitals are full.”

The news conference included Kotler; Asante Chief Medical Officer Jamie Grebosky, MD; representatives from Providence Medford Medical Center; and public health officials from Jackson and Josephine counties. The purpose was to help the public understand how dire conditions are within local hospitals as cases and patient volumes continue to multiply. Asante had 125 COVID-positive patients as of Thursday morning.

Jackson County health officer Jim Shames, MD, provided some perspective on this latest surge compared with just a month ago. “On July 4, we had 99 new cases. Last week we saw 655 new cases. Today there were 416 new cases.”

Conditions in Josephine County are just as severe. “Last winter it took seven weeks to reach 1,000 cases,” said Leona O’Keefe, MD, public health officer for the county. “Now we’ve reached 1,000 cases in less than two weeks.”

Public health officials and hospital leaders are urging the state to request field hospitals to help relieve the patient volumes so that hospitals can continue to treat non-COVID patients with life-threatening illnesses.

“We have canceled 350 surgeries,” Kotler said. “That’s 350 people who need medical treatment.”

Dr. Grebosky emphasized that the way out of this pandemic is for the community to get vaccinated and to wear a mask. Vaccinations in Jackson County are still hovering at around 56% despite the recent surge. In Josephine County, the vaccination rate is 50%.

“Vaccination is a safe and effective way to reduce your risk,” Dr. Grebosky said. “Continue to physically distance and a wear mask to reduce the spread of disease.”

Asked by a reporter to describe the conditions inside hospitals, Kotler shared an all-to-common scenario:

“Imagine you come to the ED for a heart attack or stroke. You come into a waiting room filled with 40 people. You wait for six hours and then you’re put in a hallway bed where you stay for 12 hours. You’re with up to 40 people also waiting for beds. We’re moving overflow into perioperative areas, where there’s no private bathroom or sometimes no private rooms.

“Or think about if you’re coming in for a surgery,” she continued. “We’re not talking about standard electives that can wait, we’re talking about heart surgery, brain surgery or vascular surgery that will improve your quality of life and delay your progression of disease. It breaks your heart to think what patients are going through.”

After praising hospital staff, who are working exhaustive hours, Kotler issued a plea to the public: “We are running out of options. We need your help.”

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