“I want you to know that vaccines are our only way out of this pandemic.”
Those were the words of Enloe Medical Center’s chief medical officer, Dr. Marcia Nelson, in a video posted on the hospital’s social media feed last week. Her plea to the community to get vaccinated comes amid a massive surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations, an increase that has forced the facility to open a third intensive care unit.
Nelson was calm but direct, her message relaying the urgency of the crisis. Twenty percent of all hospitalizations are for COVID, the vast majority of them attributed to the highly contagious delta variant. That strain is killing “too many of our older family members,” the doctor lamented. Then she said that a baby was recently admitted.
Nelson issued a dire warning: A few weeks back—due to the COVID spike, a large number of other admissions and staffing shortages—the hospital nearly had to turn away trauma patients. Such a scenario is a very real possibility, should COVID cases overburden the facility.
Enloe is now sharing hospitalization data directly with the public, and we commend the facility for doing so. It’s something other health care providers around the nation have taken to in recent months to convey the seriousness the situation. As of deadline, there were 63 people with COVID at Enloe. Of the six in the ICU, including three on a ventilator, all were unvaccinated.
As Nelson pointed out, more than half of eligible Butte County residents remain unvaccinated. She stressed that the vaccines are safe—that Pfizer’s earned FDA approval last week—and that they are effective. Those who get the shot may still get COVID, but they generally don’t get as ill, meaning they typically don’t end up in the ICU. Most important, they rarely die.
When it comes to helping the community by keeping its hospital functioning, Nelson put it best: “Please get vaccinated. Please wear your mask. Please help us help you.”