Hendrick physician updates COVID spread, hope in vaccine

Steve Nash / Brownwood Bulletin
Dr. Rob Wiley, chief medical officer at Hendrick Health, gives an update on the spread of COVID.

Dr. Rob Wiley, chief medical officer of Hendrick Health, gave an update on the “uncontrolled transmission of COVID within our community” in a video posted Monday on the Hendrick Health website.

While Wiley’s message was sobering, Wiley also said, “there is hope. Our hope is in the vaccine.”

The percentage of hospitalized COVID patients is at 22 percent, Wiley said. 

Wiley began the video by noting three major holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s — have just passed.

“We’re still at level 6 on our COVID flywheel,” Wiley said. That means we are having uncontrolled transmission of COVID,  within our community and we have been at more than 15 percent of total hospital capacity for COVID patients for more than seven days. In all actuality we’ve been at this level for more than a month and we are presently at 22 percent. That means that one out of five patients admitted to our hospital has COVID. 

“In our emergency room (Monday), have 16 patients waiting for admissions. That means they are waiting for a bed that is being occupied. Some of them have been waiting as long as 12 hours, as short as two hours. Some of these patients have COVID, some of the patients do not have COVID. But we do have a significant percentage of patients waiting in our emergency room for hospitalization.”

In the Brownwood hospital Monday, seven patients were waiting in the emergency room, Hendrick Health clarified.

Within the Hendrick Health System, there were 154 COVID positive patients Monday, Wiley said. There were 68 patients in ICU with 49 on ventilators, 39 of them being COVID positive.

In Brownwood, 17 were hospitalized Monday with COVID and four were on ventilators, Hendrick Health said.

  Brown County had 585 active cases Monday, and 76 deaths have been reported. The death of a female in her 70s were reported Monday.

“Let that soak in,” Wiley said. “Thirty-nine patients with COVID on ventilators. Those are our parents, our grandparents, our friends within our community. Those patients will be on ventilators as short a time as two weeks, as long as four weeks.

“Keep in mind that half of these patients will not come off the ventilators. That’s a significant number. Understand also … that number is going to go up. We’re just now seeing the surge that’s occurring from the Thanksgiving holidays. We still have the surge from Christmas and from New Year’s to come.”

Wiley predicted that 200 to 210 COVID patients will be hospitalized in the three Hendrick Health Care hospitals.

“As a result, we are in the process of having to look for new places for ICU beds,” Wiley said. “We’re looking for new nursing staff, we’re also at this point decreasing the number of elective procedures we are doing every day.

“We meet twice a day to discuss what procedures can we do? Elective procedures being not just the ear nose throat procedures but we’re talking about heart surgeries and also brain surgeries. If they’re not emergent, they’re not life threatening, then they’re not being done right now.”

Wiley reiterated the importance of wearing masks, saying   “It’s a simple request. It’s the one request that we know can help protect yourself, protect others around you and also protect our economy. 

“Social distancing continues to be key and cancelling the non-essentials. “We should be really evaluating where we’re spending our time outside our home.”

Speaking of the “hope” in the vaccine, Wiley said, 

. In essential we should be canceling the nonessentials. There is hope, Wiley noted that vaccines have been given to health care workers.

“In the future, and the very near future, we’ll be able to give the vaccines to our high risk population, patients who are over 65, who have co-morbidities,” Wiley said. “But you have to understand. This vaccine is only effective if a significant population gets it, meaning we need 60 to 70 percent of our population to be getting the vaccine. To protect our community we need that number. 

“When we reach that number, we get to re-evaluate the importance of what we’re doing, whether we have to continue to wear a mask, social distancing, hand washing, all very good things, but they ave been things that we have been doing because of COVID.”

Wiley concluded by saying community members “need to continue to persevere, we need to continue to be accountable to each other.”