On Thursday Yale New Haven Health System CEO Marna Borgstrom shared some good news.
As of Thursday there were 201 hospitalized Covid patients across the system, whereas in December, well into the second wave, the numbers were in the 430-440 range.
“This is pretty remarkable,” she said.
As of Thursday morning:
28 at Greenwich Hospital
95 at Yale New Haven Hospital
62 at Bridgeport Hospital
13 Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London
3 at Westerly Hospital
Borgstrom said there were also fewer patients in the ICU: 52 patients, down from 80 two weeks earlier. Of those, she said 31 were on ventilators.
Chief clinical officer Dr. Tom Balcezak said he could only speculate on the improved numbers.
“It’s probably a combination of those folks with natural immunity because they’ve been infected, and people who’ve been vaccinated, and others who are wearing masks and distancing,” he said. “It’s failing to find new individuals to infect.”
He explained that vaccination clinics were running well and, as of Wednesday night, 82,000 doses had been administered across the System. (52,000 people have had at least their first dose and 30,000 with their second dose).
Since they began vaccinating people over 65, demand has surged.
This week the System received 12,000 doses. In previous weeks they’d been receiving between 4,000 -5,000 doses a week.
“We are ready to do more,” he said. “We understand we’ll be getting an increased allocation from the fed.”
Balcezak said there was a priority in having equitable vaccine distribution, and they were making efforts that vaccines reach vulnerable residents in cities, minorities and those who have been underserved in healthcare.
Toward that end, they have hosted town halls with community organizations where they explain the efficacy of the vaccine, how it was tested, and why it was safe.
They also did a reverse 911 call this week to citizens in New Haven area alerting residents to a call center which they could call set up an appointment.
Still he said only about 40% of the health system’s Black employees have been vaccinated and 57% of Hispanic employees.
“This vaccine is safe and we need to get to the 80% mark to get to community immunity.”Dr. Tom Balcezak, Yale New Haven Health System chief clinical officer
They are also using sending nurses to people’s homes to vaccinate the homebound.
Beyond that, he said, “We have community healthcare workers pounding the pavement around Bridgeport, New Haven and New London going into locations to help people sign up. In first week of March we’ll start mobile vaccination sites! It’s a multi prong effort.”
About 70% of the system’s invited medical staff and employees – about 34,000 people – have been vaccinated.
“We’re leaving those invitations active. We’re still steering folks making appointments for their first vaccine. It’s a slower drip of numbers of individuals, but they’re still coming in. The minority population does trail our overall numbers.”
“Folks are wearing stickers to show they’ve been vaccinated. It’s a personal choice for individuals to make. We are not mandating it, but we think it’s in their best interest for them and their families and from the community perspective.”
Balcezak said most virologists anticipate the South African and UK (B117) variants to become dominant.
“All viruses are constantly changing and mutating,” he said, adding that they hoped to add more capacity to do sequencing.
“We have a way within our Covid testing lab to selectively sample individual specimens that appear to may have the signal for the variant,” he said, adding that they hope to add more capacity to do additional sequencing.
All that said, the system is not changing its focus.
“It should sharpen our focus on getting vaccinations out there more quickly and sharpen our focus on masking and social distancing,” Balcezak said, adding the new variants were no more serious, just more infectious and could possibly lead to a third wave if people become complacent.
“I don’t see anything in what I’ve read that the vaccines will not be efficacious (on the variants),” he added.
There are more than a dozen sites across the state where the health system offers vaccinations.
“Where we see more demand we’re sending more doses to those areas,” he said, adding that this week they were ramping up their site at University of Bridgeport.
Zero Flu Cases is Good News, Especially for Children
Balcezak said that as of last week the system had not seen any flu cases.
“Usually by this time of year we have hundreds of flu cases across the system….There will be fewer deaths in children who would have died of flu or RSV.”Dr. Tom Balcezak, Yale New Haven Health System chief clinical officer
Balecezak said, “It’s not as simple as double masking. We need to make sure people wear the masks appropriately and make sure they are tight fitting. Most medical grade masks are 3 layers of non woven materials. Those are the best.”