Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients at HSHS St. John’s Hospital have risen to levels last seen during the latest wave in late summer and early fall.
The increase in the number of inpatients with COVID-19 at the 422-bed Springfield Hospital and the other 14 Hospital Sisters Health System hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin has coincided with a rising number of COVID-19-positive cases since early November in the United States. central Illinois and the rest of the state.
“We don’t know if it will continue,” Dr. Marc Shelton, HSHS senior vice president and chief clinical officer, to The State Journal-Register.
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With the cold weather of fall and the end of the year holiday season driving more people indoors and gatherings where COVID-19 can be easily spread, Shelton urged the public to wear masks in crowds, let themselves be vaccinate against COVID-19 and widely search available booster shots.
“We’ve seen very few people who have a boost and need to be hospitalized,” says Shelton, a cardiologist.
The number of new COVID-19 cases has continued to rise among residents of Sangamon County since early last month. And while there are no new reports of deaths locally, officials note that deaths are often weeks and in some cases months behind initial diagnosis.
Statewide, however, the average daily number of COVID-19 deaths has been rising since late November. Tuesday’s report of 78 new deaths by the Illinois Department of Public Health was the highest single-day number since Feb. 11, when 102 deaths were reported.
Nearly 26,700 people in Illinois have died from COVID-19, IDPH says, while 58.8% of the population in Sangamon County and statewide has been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
The Sangamon County Department of Public Health reported two additional COVID-19 deaths so far this week among county residents, bringing the total number of fatalities during the pandemic to 295. Both people who died had not received a vaccine.
A Sangamon County woman in her 60s who tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 23 died on Sunday. That same day, a Sangamon County man in his 60s who tested positive on Nov. 26, according to the county health department, died.
Two new deaths from COVID-19 were reported in Morgan County, involving a woman in her 80s who died in a long-term care facility on Oct. 6 and a man in his 50s who died in a hospital on Nov. 21. Those deaths brought the total number of COVID-19-related deaths among Morgan County residents to 125.
It’s unclear how the new ommicron variant of COVID-19, the first case of which was discovered in Chicago, will affect positive diagnoses, hospitalizations, medical complications or deaths, Shelton said.
But statistics show the impact of the latest COVID-19 wave.
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At Memorial Health, which operates Springfield Memorial Hospital in Springfield and four other hospitals in central Illinois, spokeswoman Angie Muhs said on Tuesday: “With the increase in COVID-19 cases in our area, the capacity of the ICU beds has increased. a challenge over the past few weeks. As of this morning, December 7, Memorial Health has 78 COVID-19 patients in our five hospitals. On November 3, that number was 22.”
Muhs added: “In recent weeks, the vast majority of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 have not been vaccinated. Just under a third of hospitalized patients are at least partially vaccinated. It is important to note, however, that many of those patients have had other health conditions that put them at greater risk of serious illness from contracting COVID-19.”
And across the Hospital Sisters Health System, as of Monday, 182 admitted patients were being treated for COVID-19-related complications, 55 of them fully vaccinated and 127 patients — or seven in 10 — unvaccinated.
The health system classifies unvaccinated people as those who have not received a vaccine, or in the case of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech versions, who receive only one dose of the recommended two-dose regimen.
Of the 15 COVID-19 patients in HSHS hospitals who were on ventilator, three were vaccinated and 12 unvaccinated. And of the 37 COVID-19 patients in HSHS intensive care units, 84%, or 31, had not been vaccinated.
St. John’s has 26 to 27 COVID-19 patients at any given time, Shelton said.
Those numbers were nowhere near the record number of patients treated by HSHS and St. John’s in November and December 2020.
During that time, the system treated as many as 311 admitted COVID-19 patients at once, and the total number of patients at St. John’s was between 80 and 90, Shelton said.
That was a time when COVID-19 vaccines weren’t widely available, like they are now, he said.
The current figures are more in line with the late summer of this year. HSHS treated 137 admitted patients with COVID-19 on August 17 and 91% were unvaccinated. Among the admitted patients, 31 were at St. John’s.
It has been challenging to care for some unvaccinated patients with COVID-19 who continue to question the genuineness of the pandemic and instead focus on conspiracy theories, said Ashley Rodrick, St. John’s registered nurse.
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Rodrick, 35, who has spent the past six months as a St. John’s RN and the two years before that as a nursing assistant at the hospital, said the situation can be frustrating for nurses.
“It’s a bit baffling, I’ll be honest with you,” she said.
“They say they don’t have COVID, and they can be rude sometimes,” she said.
Some tell nurses they won’t get vaccinated later, if they survive.
Although Rodrick said she was trying to tell a patient there was no reason to fear COVID-19 vaccines, which have been proven to be more than 90% effective at preventing serious illness and death, the patient told her: “I don’t want it to mess with my DNA.”
Rodrick said she witnessed a COVID-19 patient arguing with a doctor over whether St. John’s medical equipment confirming the patient’s reduced blood oxygen levels associated with COVID-19 was correct. used to be.
The patient asked the doctor, “How do you know the machine isn’t lying?” according to Rodrick.
Some unvaccinated patients have declined antiviral drugs such as remdesivir, which are accepted treatments to help COVID-19 patients recover, she said.
The patients viewed the treatment as a conspiracy by the medical establishment, Rodrick said. “They really want to believe that someone is to blame,” she said.
Remdesivir was used to treat former President Donald Trump when he became infected with COVID-19.
The condition of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients in St. John’s tends to be less stable than the condition of vaccinated patients, Rodrick said. As a result, these patients stay longer and are more likely to die, she said.
Indeed, HSHS says the average length of hospital stay is five days for vaccinated patients and 15 days for unvaccinated patients.
Some unvaccinated patients, especially those with serious complications and those at risk of going on a ventilator, have been more likely to regret their decision to remain unvaccinated and more vocal about getting a COVID-19 injection later, Rodrick said.
The vaccinated patients who contract “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 are more likely to have other chronic health problems or a weakened immune system, she said.
St. John’s nurses and other staff have seen more deaths during the pandemic than they have encountered in recent memory, she said. The political divisions over COVID-19 are adding to the stress for everyone involved, she said.
“We are very grateful to be able to care for all of our patients,” Rodrick said. “We have nurses of all political affiliations, and we will treat you no matter what.”
Rodrick’s request to the public is to get vaccinated, and if people need to be hospitalized, be patient with health care providers who will endure the emotional pain of the long pandemic.
“We can remember the faces of all the patients we’ve lost,” she said.