As COVID-19 cases remain high in Williamson County, the virus is not the only cause for concern at Williamson Medical Center, as the hospital has recently seen elevated cases of substance and domestic abuse.
Andy Russell, chief medical officer for Williamson Medical, shared during a community event Monday that hospitals across the nation, including his emergency department, are seeing a trend of increased alcohol and drug overdoses and domestic violence victims during the pandemic.
As Williamson County endures its 11th month of the COVID-19 pandemic, the local health care community is beginning to worry about long-term impacts.
“Obviously, we’re concerned about the patients and the long-term effects of COVID, since we really don’t know what will happen to these patients in the long term,” Russell said.
Other prominent impacts of the pandemic don’t necessarily tie to the virus, though, such as mental health struggles, substance abuse, domestic abuse and child development in the current stay-at-home culture.
“I’ve got two teenagers at home, and I worry about how their social growth and maturation and development is going to be affected by not being able to be around their friends, they’re not in the school building, and how will they be prepared for college,” Russell said. “Even people who don’t have COVID, this pandemic is obviously affecting.”
However, while these other pandemic impacts are in need of attention, the virus is certainly not taking a backseat.
Russell said about 25% of Williamson Medical’s beds are occupied by a COVID-19 patient on any given day. Back in March and April, the peak at the hospital was around 15 patients at a time.
“We were fortunate that was all it was, but at the same time, we thought, ‘Oh, this is a whole lot of these COVID patients,’” he said.
He also said policies and guidelines were constantly adjusting at the time as the world learned more about the virus, and the hospital also underwent construction to create spaces for COVID-19 patients. During Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s “safer at home” order, the numbers went down, but now, the county is at its highest number of active cases, at 2,611 as of Sunday.
“Since Thanksgiving, we’ve been averaging 45 to 50 patients in-house at any one time,” Russell said. “For a 200-bed hospital — you can do the math — that’s almost a quarter of our beds are full of COVID patients on any given day.”
In 2020, the hospital admitted over 800 patients with COVID-19.
The vaccine is already being distributed according to the state’s vaccine plan, but getting to the point of herd immunity, which requires 70% to 90% of the community to get the vaccine, will take a while, Russell said.
“This is going to take several months, so even with the vaccine out now, we at the hospital, we expect this pandemic to last really through May, June at least,” he said.
Williamson Medical Center has enough vaccines to give all its staff members a first dose, but for everyone else eligible within the current phase of the plan, they must receive their vaccine through the health department as of now.
To determine during which phase a person will qualify for a vaccine under the state’s distribution plan, visit covid19.tn.gov/covid-19-vaccines/eligibility.
To receive text alerts concerning which phase Williamson County is in, visit surveymonkey.com/r/QR3TZSL. County residents who are eligible under the state’s 1a1 and 1a2 phases or are 75 years of age or older should sign up on the county’s vaccine waitlist at signupgenius.com/go/williamson_priority_list or by calling 615-595-4880.