Local Healthcare Providers Warn COVID Outbreak Straining Hospitals
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Alexandria, La. (August 18, 2021) — Representatives of three local hospitals as well as the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals are reporting Alexandria medical facilities are at capacity due to the current surge in COVID-19 cases.
“I’m not telling you what I think, I’m telling you what I know and what I see every day,” said Dr. Kelvin Spears, Chief Medical Officer with Alexandria Emergency Hospital. “Our hospitals are at capacity with this disease.”
Dr. Sherri Somers, Chief Medical Officer at Rapides Regional Medical Center, added, “The state of COVID-19 in Cenla and particularly Alexandria is in crisis. Not unlike the rest of Louisiana, our hospital systems here are bulging at the seams. We are at peak capacity every single day at the hospital. This is a surge of the young and the very young and it’s tragic. It’s no longer our parents or grandparents who are gravely ill and dying, it’s our 20-40-year-old age group and our children under 12 who are falling ill. We cannot let this happen to our children or our grandchildren. It’s preventable and it’s controllable with the vaccine, with masking and with social distancing. COVID vaccination is a choice. It’s a choice to protect yourself, it’s a choice to protect your family and it’s a choice to protect your community.”
Dr. Jose Zapatero, Chief Medical Officer at CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, said, “We are seeing with this Delta variant that it is more aggressive. We are seeing younger people getting severe disease. The youngest patient we have seen is only 3 months old. This is not a political issue, it is a public health crisis and we really have to respond accordingly.”
Dr. David Holcombe, Regional Administrator/Medical Director Louisiana Office of Public Health Region 6, noted, “I wish I could bring some good news, but I can’t. We have plunged into this fourth wave and this fourth wave is really a pandemic of the unvaccinated. So that means this fourth wave was largely preventable, and that – from a public health perspective – is a tragedy.”
Officials from each facility noted the majority of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients they see – 90 percent or more – are unvaccinated. Local vaccination rates remain around 30 percent in Rapides Parish for adults, while only approximately 5 percent of school-age children eligible to get vaccinated have done so.
Officials stressed the currently approved COVID vaccines are safe and have proven to be highly effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization. The doctors cited a number of concerns they have heard from people hesitant to get vaccinated and in each case those concerns have proven to be unfounded.
“The vaccines are working, and I would highly encourage all of you to do your part and get vaccinated if you qualify,” Dr. Zapatero said. “The vaccines are definitely protecting the patients. It’s also reducing hospital admissions. Right now our hospitals are stretched thin, and it is compromising the care we can give other people.”
Dr. Somers added, “The vaccine technology has been studied for decades. It is not new nor is it experimental. It doesn’t enter your DNA and it does not change your genetic material. It is safe.”
All agreed increasing the number of vaccinated individuals is key to controlling the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“As long as there is a big group of unvaccinated people out there, these folks are a petri dish for the virus,” Dr. Holcombe said. “And so, not only are they spreading the Delta variant, but they are offering an opportunity for new variants to appear which may be more contagious and more deadly. So not getting the vaccine is not just a personal risk, it’s a community risk.”
“It’s not just about the individual, it’s about us as a group, as a community, protecting each other,” added Dr. Spears. “The key to this is simple: Social distancing, masking and get the vaccine. So, I implore you, for 25 years you have trusted me to take care of you during your emergencies, I ask you once again to trust me – mask, social distance, get the vaccine. Come together, and let us heal our land.”
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