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Hospital CEO: Caregivers are “Heroic” but “Exhausted”

COVID-19 Cases Surge to Highest Levels in Nevada County

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Nevada County has had a dramatic impact on staff and physicians at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. The hospital has seen higher numbers of COVID-19 patients in recent weeks than they did at the previous spike during the winter.

As kids were busy getting ready to return to school in recent weeks and the rest of us were enjoying the slow but steady return to “normal” life after last year’s pandemic shutdown, a change has been happening that may have gone unnoticed by many: COVID-19 is surging yet again in Nevada County.

It is a change that happened quickly. It has taken just a few weeks for COVID-19 cases to climb dramatically throughout California, including here in Nevada County.

“We have seen more hospitalized patients recently at Sierra Nevada than we did during the winter surge,” says Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital President and CEO Brian Evans, MD. “We’ve had as many as 29 COVID-positive patients at one point.”



In fact, last week Nevada County had more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people than any other county in the state – 58.2 per 100,000, compared to a state average of 27.4 per 100,000. The county’s test positivity rate was 14.7%, more than double the statewide average of 6.1%.

Dr. Evans says the Delta variant – which just began spreading across the United States a couple months ago – is fueling the spike in cases.



“The Delta variant continues to spread rapidly across the country and our community,” he explains. “This has resulted in a significant increase in hospitalizations.”

The impact on the hospital’s staff and physicians has been profound.

“This has significantly impacted all of our staffing, especially front-line nursing,” Dr. Evans says. “We have brought in traveler nurses, and crisis nurses from the state. Many of our front-line team have worked without breaks and meals. They are working extra shifts and overtime. These amazing people are taking care of our community in a way that can only be described as heroic. But they are exhausted.”

Looking ahead to the near future, Dr. Evans says the forecast for COVID-19 cases is not encouraging.

“Based on the epidemiologic projections, it looks like we can expect ongoing new infections and hospitalizations to continue in significant numbers for the next couple of weeks,” he explains. “Beyond that, it is hard to know with certainty. The biggest concern is that new variants could emerge in the future that are even more difficult to control, or less preventable through vaccines.”

While the number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada County is significantly higher than the state average, the number of vaccinated individuals the county is notably lower: 54.8% of the county is vaccinated, compared with 65% statewide.

In fact, Dr. Evans says increasing the number of people in the community who are vaccinated is the best strategy for preventing another spike like we are seeing now – or one that is even worse.

“The vast majority of patients hospitalized right now are unvaccinated,” he says. “I encourage everyone to work together to reduce the spread of this infection through vaccination and mask wearing.”

Dr. Evans also recognizes that we are living in a time of division, and while our community may not be immune to it, he believes Nevada County is ultimately a special place filled with uniquely caring people.

“I’m grateful to live and work in such an exceptional community,” he says. “I know that the differences of opinion about science and public health have been challenging for everyone, and at times discouraging. I certainly hope that we can all find a way to discuss scientific information in a way that is productive and respectful, even when we don’t all agree. I also hope that we can find better ways to manage the explosion of erroneous information that now surrounds us.”

In the meantime, Dr. Evans extends his gratitude to the staff and physicians at SNMH and health care workers everywhere who continue to provide care despite seemingly insurmountable challenges.

“I’m grateful to all of the staff and physicians who have been tirelessly working to protect all of us in the community during this pandemic. I look forward to a time when we can come together and celebrate them, and so many of the community partners that have supported our team.”

COVID-19 Vaccination

COVID-19 vaccination is readily available in communities throughout our region, at no cost. Simply visit myturn.ca.gov to find a vaccination clinic near you.

COVID-19 Testing

If you believe you or someone you know has been exposed to COVID-19, testing is available through OptumServe (call 1-888-634-1123 or online at lhi.care/covidtesting) or at Walgreens and Rite Aid, both in Grass Valley.

 


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