GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — The Gallia County Commission welcomed Holzer Health System CEO, Michael Canady, to its weekly meeting on Thursday, to share the impact of COVID-19 on Holzer and offer guidance to combat the virus. Additional elected officials and courthouse staff were also in attendance for the presentation.
Canady shared numbers relating to COVID-19, including hospitalizations — vaccinated and unvaccinated — and said the next six to eight weeks are a critical time. Canady said one of the best things area residents can do is get vaccinated.
“We have done just about everything that we can do as a healthcare system to inform the communities of the dangers of this virus, the benefits of the vaccine, the availability of the vaccine and I’m happy to talk about the safety and efficiency of the vaccine,” Canady said.
As of Sept. 22, roughly 6,254,196 people or 53.50% of the population in the state of Ohio has started the vaccination, according to data shared by Canady. In Gallia County, 11,982 residents or roughly 40.08% of the population has started the vaccination.
(Editor’s note: As repoted by Ohio Valley Publishing, as of Friday in Meigs County, vaccines started are at 9,064 which is 39.57 percent of the population, while vaccines completed are 8,076, which is 35.26 percent of the population. In Mason County, W.Va., a total of 10,346 people in Mason County have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is 39.0 percent of the population, according to West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. There have been a total of 18,422 doses administered in Mason County.)
“To my knowledge, there’s not been one serious, significant reaction to the vaccine in all the vaccines that we’ve [Holzer] delivered in our area now,” Canady said. “We have not seen any of the things they talk about with myocarditis in the young males and things like that,” he said.
Canady also said that while vaccines are not totally without risk, any reaction can usually be seen within one month.
“There’s no risk free thing in the world,” Canady said. “Vaccines have risks. The risk is almost zero after a month, most of the risk you see with vaccines happened in that first month.
Holzer has started sharing infographics to make it easier to visualize the numbers of active cases and those who are vaccinated versus non-vaccinated.
Holzer reports as of Sept. 23, there were 82 active COVID patients being treated at Holzer. Canady said “about 15%” of those patients are vaccinated.
“So, the lion’s share of the patients we are seeing, who are getting sick and dying from COVID at Holzer are unvaccinated,” Canady said.
According to the data shared, in the state of Ohio there have been 24,335 patients hospitalized who are reported as not fully vaccinated and 744 fully vaccinated patients hospitalized. There have been 7,547 unvaccinated COVID-related deaths and 97 individuals fully vaccinated who have died from COVID complications, all since Jan. 1.
Canady said the virus is now affecting everyone and healthy patients have succumbed to COVID.
“This is no longer a disease of elderly, debilitated patients, all of those people [recent patients] are reasonably healthy, maybe a little bit overweight, so that’s the only risk factor they’ve got,” Canady said. “This is a terrible situation that’s affecting very young people.”
According to the data presented by Canady during the presentation, which was from Sept. 21, There were 74 patients with active cases of COVID-19 being treated at Holzer Hospital, 62 of those patients are unvaccinated.
The data showed that Holzer Hospital is currently running at a 117% staff capacity in the Critical Care Unit.
“It’s stretching our resources to the max, maybe past the max already a little bit,” Canady said. “We’re running more patients than we really should be taking care of, to be able to care for the communities.
Canady shared a “Holzer COVID inpatient census” graph that showed a slight dip, but Canady is still concerned.
“Obviously we’re getting close to where we were back in the winter,” Canady said. “Maybe there is a little downward trend, but they’re projecting it to go back up again.”
The data shared shows the state of Ohio with a 21-day average of 238 hospitalizations and 346 hospitalizations withing the past 24 hours as of Sept. 21.
“This is my concern right now,” Canady said. “We haven’t reached the peak yet, which is going to be the middle of October.”
Each day, Holzer has to assess if specific surgical procedures are possible with questions like, “will they take up a bed for days?” and staff are on the phone daily trying to find beds for patients in need.
“We were busy before we had the first COVID patient,” Canady said. “And now it is demanding so much of our resources, that [it’s] impacting our ability to take care of patients who would come to us for other reasons, as well as COVID.”
Canady said there is anywhere from two to 10 COVID patients in the Emergency Room waiting for a bed with Holzer or another hospital to open up at any given time.
Canady said there are two, possibly three things everyone can do to protect themselves from COVID-19. The first is the vaccine.
“[The] recommendation is everybody should get the vaccine where it’s possible,” Canady said. “Vaccinated people still can get the virus, there’s no doubt. You’ve seen some people that are fully vaccinated that have gotten it, they tend not to get as sick. It obviously works, I’ve shown you the data.”
Wearing a mask is a preventative measure against COVID, but Canady said the mask matters.
“The other thing you can do is wear an N95 mask to protect yourself,” Canady said. “The mask that you guys have on out there [cloth, bandana, store-bought, etc] are fine for protecting those of us who aren’t wearing masks right now, they’re source control masks. They keep your secretions from getting out, they don’t protect you against things coming in.”
The third safety precaution, natural immunity, is one that has many unknowns according to Canady.
“You can get COVID and recover from it, natural immunity probably is real,” Canady said. “Not sure if it’s effective against this new variant or not, but probably has some effectiveness there.”
While Canady shared three individual protection measures, he also had one for the area.
“My recommendation would be in your county until six to eight weeks, first of the year preferably, you limit access to public settings to people who can prove they’ve had a vaccine. That’s my recommendation, again, that’s not popular,” Canady said. “The people who are at risk here are the unvaccinated people.
Canady said his encouragement to get the COVID-19 vaccination is to help protect people.
“I’ve been in this business for 40 years, I’ve never felt so helpless to affect a problem,” Canady said. “This seems like it has no end right now and it’s very frustrating.”
Canady is unsure of how well the problem has been shared with the public.
“I don’t think the communities understand how bad it is because we probably haven’t done as good a job as we should have of communicating it to the public,” Canady said. “I don’t know how to get it out any differently or better than what we have tried to do. We know vaccines work, we know masks work,” he said.
Canady gave out copies of the data he shared during the presentation and said he always welcomes answering questions people may have on the vaccine.
Holzer serves five counties in southeastern Ohio, including Gallia County with locations in Pomeroy and Point Pleasant, W.Va.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer with Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (740) 444-4303 ext. 2555.