Dip in COVID-19 hospitalizations suggests reprieve for Jennie Stuart

While the hospital's COVID-19 patient occupancy is the lowest it has been in two months, data suggests Jennie Stuart is still under stress from the coronavirus pandemic.

This story is part of an occasional series from Hoptown Chronicle about how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting Jennie Stuart Medical Center. See more coverage.

Hospital capacity data updated Sunday by the federal government show the stress imposed by the coronavirus pandemic on Jennie Stuart Medical Center is at the lowest level it has been in two months.

From Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, an average of 18% of all adult inpatient beds at Jennie Stuart were occupied by people being treated for COVID-19. It’s the lowest the ratio has been since the week of Dec. 4, when the percentage was 16%.

According to research from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, anything between 10% and 19% is believed to indicate a hospital is under “high stress.” A ratio of 20% or higher — which is where the hospital has fallen for the previous eight weeks — indicates “extreme stress,” according to IHME.

From Jan. 22 to 29, Jennie Stuart’s coronavirus patient occupancy was 20%, according to the data.

In December, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began releasing hospital capacity numbers to provide a view of how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting hospitals and local communities across the country. Hoptown Chronicle has reported the data ever since in an effort to help the community understand the pressure COVID-19 has placed on the community’s hospital.

COVID-19 patient occupancy in ICU plateaus

The average number of intensive care beds occupied by COVID-19 patients declined from 67% during the week of Jan. 8 to 36% the week of Jan. 15. It has since plateaued. For the last two weeks, the percentage has been 37%.

IHME’s framework says an ICU is under “extreme stress” if at least 60% of beds are occupied by patients being treated for coronavirus. It’s a level the hospital has only reached twice since October. Anything between 30% and 59% indicates an ICU is under “high stress.”

More recent daily patient totals suggest continued decline

As of Monday, Jennie Stuart had 14 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to spokeswoman Selina Staub. It’s the lowest the daily total has been since Nov. 19. Over the last week, the hospital has averaged 18 COVID-19 hospitalizations per day.

While the number is down from record highs last month, coronavirus patient totals indicate the hospital is still under strain due to the pandemic.

Because patients being treated for coronavirus require significantly more staffing resources, in part, because of protocols surrounding personal protective equipment, they present unique challenges for frontline health care workers.

Monday’s seven-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations was the same as it was on Dec. 11, when the hospital issued an open letter to the community asking  the public to be diligent in the fight against the virus in order to avoid a “situation where hospitals are full.” The public appeal was made 11 days after the seven-day patient average reached a then-record of 27.

The daily patient counts provided from the hospital don’t include COVID-positive individuals who receive treatment in the hospital’s emergency department, physicians’ offices or urgent care.

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Julia Hunter | Hoptown Chronicle

Julia Hunter is co-founder and engagement editor of Hoptown Chronicle. She began her journalism career as a reporter and news editor at the Kentucky New Era and now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she serves as the membership & communications director for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Reach her at julia@hoptownchronicle.org and find her on Twitter at @JuliaMHunter.