KNOXVILLE — Several Knoxville-area hospitals issued a joint statement on Wednesday encouraging East Tennesseans to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Together, the medical centers urged vaccination as “the fastest and most effective way out of the pandemic,” saying that more than 80% of people who are hospitalized with covid in all of the facilities are unvaccinated.
The statement was joined by University of Tennessee Medical Center, Tennova Healthcare, Sweetwater Hospital Association, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Covenant Health and Blount Memorial Hospital.
“Many have avoided getting vaccinated because of myths or misinformation about vaccine safety,” the hospitals said. “However, vaccine testing, clinical trials and worldwide results show that the vaccine is safe and effective. It greatly reduces the likelihood of contracting or spreading the virus, being hospitalized, or dying as a result of Covid-19. It also significantly lowers our communities’ risk of experiencing another viral surge. If you are hesitant about receiving the vaccine, please discuss your concerns with your health care provider so you can make an education decision based on factual information.”
The hospitals pointed out that the increase in Covid-19 cases is exacerbated by a shortage of health care workers across the nation, including Tennessee.
“Staffing is lower now than before the pandemic began, and several of our health systems have enlisted the help of the Tennessee National Guard to help alleviate this staffing crisis,” the hospitals said. “Even with this assistance, as more people come to our hospitals, we still have fewer health care professionals to provide care.”
As a result, wait times in emergency rooms are up.
“Our dedicated physicians and hospital staffs are working hard to care for Covid-19 patients as well as those who are experiencing heart attack, stroke and other life-threatening illnesses and conditions,” the hospitals said. “A significant amount of our hospitals’ current bed capacity is being used by Covid-19 patients. We all need to do our part to prevent the escalating spread of the virus to make sure local hospitals are here when you need us, regardless of the type of care you need. We know that anxieties and emotions can be high during hospital visits. We appreciate your patience and ask that you treat our health care heroes with the kindness and respect they deserve.”
The hospitals urged those with mild symptoms — such as a low-grade fever, cough and sore throat — or those who need a Covid-19 test to call their health care provider or visit an urgent care facility before going to the ER.
“However, if you have a serious injury or life-threatening illness or condition, don’t hesitate to seek emergency treatment,” the statement said. “Our collective commitment is to be there when you need us most. Be assured that our teams are working tirelessly and selflessly to provide you with the care that you need.”
Across Tennessee, there were 3,343 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Tuesday, according to the TN Dept. of Health. That number is rapidly approaching the peak number of hospitalizations during the last surge of the virus in December.
In the East Tennessee region, which includes all the hospitals who jointly issued Wednesday’s release, there are 635 covid patients hospitalized, which is just 36 fewer than at the peak of the last surge of the virus during the winter. Of those hospitalized, 169 are in ICU and 112 are on ventilators.
In Scott County, the Dept. of Health has reported five hospitalizations since the latest surge of the virus began, placing the total number of covid-related hospitalizations at 77 dating back to the beginning of the pandemic. However, it is believed that the number of hospitalizations during the current surge of the virus is under-reported.