“There are beds available”: Arnot Health CEO on the state of the virus

Coronavirus

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — As COVID cases rise, hospitalizations increase. Local healthcare systems have been on the front lines, fighting the virus since the pandemic began in 2020. Where is the region now and have they made progress in this fight?

A potentially strained system is facing a crisis again as the omicron variant spreads rapidly. This has led to a spike in nearly every data metric. This week Chemung County has surpassed 50 hospitalizations every day. Steuben County has consistently had more than 30 residents in the hospital with COVID-19. This comes after months of high hospitalization rates with many facilities full since the early Fall. 

“There are beds available. It changes from day to day and hour to hour. Today, we were pretty close to full first thing this morning,” Arnot Health President and CEO Jonathan Lawrence told 18 News. 

Arnot Health has seen a spike in patients needing COVID-19 care, which includes calls to the COVID hotline and a surge in testing. 

“We’re up to 800 calls a day. Before we were doing testing for maybe a dozen people. We’re now doing testing for hundreds,” Lawrence continued.

While testing increases, they hope to continue the race to vaccinate, which has stalled in recent weeks. Chemung and Steuben counties have between 50 and 55 percent of all adults vaccinated, which is below the New York State and national average. Arnot believes vaccination is the key to limiting severe disease. So far, they have vaccinated more than 40,000 individuals.

 “That [vaccination] has definitely reduced the level of hospitalizations. It has reduced the number of individuals needing to use intensive care services. It’s reduced the number of deaths,” Lawrence added.

As the pandemic continues and starts its third year, the same concerns remain. The frustration and worry about what comes next is a commonly held feeling among the healthcare industry. 

“What keeps me up at night is always wondering what else could go wrong and make sure that we are we position ourselves to anticipate those things,” Lawrence concluded.

While he does not know what comes next, Lawrence applauds not only his staff but healthcare workers across the region who work together to battle COVID-19. 

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