Health Indiana News

COVID-19 hospitalization figures at Clark Memorial Health in Jeffersonville have dropped to their lowest levels since the pandemic reached the area, according to Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel.

Over the weekend, the hospital reported no COVID-19 patients in the ICU or on ventilators. It’s the first time that’s happened since last spring.

“That was some really, really encouraging numbers towards the end of the week, and our positivity rates have gone way down,” Yazel said. “I can’t underscore enough the fact that, literally, was the first time since last March that we didn’t have a patient on the ventilator with COVID at our local hospital. I just really think that’s a big, big milestone, so I’m just excited.” 

Yazel said an average of more than 20 patients were on ventilators last spring, consistently putting the hospital near capacity. The hospital has 14 beds in its intensive care unit, sometimes holding ICU patients in the emergency department until a bed becomes available. That number fluctuated between five and 10 during the most recent wave that started after Thanksgiving.

“That was something we literally had to watch on a daily basis for probably six weeks or so,” he said.

But Yazel also sees the recent drop as evidence that the local and state vaccination program is working. About 15,000 people in Clark County have been vaccinated so far, Yazel said. That’s approximately 13% of the population.

A bulk of those doses have gone to at-risk and elderly populations. Yazel said those groups have accounted for a majority of hospitalizations and deaths.

“Hopefully, it’s a sign that on the vaccination side of things that Indiana’s really, really focused on the highest risk patients, and that we’re going to start seeing change in hospitalizations,” he said. “And mortality more than anything, hopefully, will go way down.”

But the decrease doesn’t mean the county is in the clear yet. When numbers improved after the first wave around June, Yazel said cases spiked again because people stopped closely adhering to restrictions.

Yazel encouraged local residents to continue following public health guidelines to limit spread.

“I hopefully don’t want to see the same thing happened where people go on spring break, the warmer weather hits, they make bad decisions and right when you’re starting to get in the summer where everybody should be out enjoying things, our numbers spike and we have to kind of roll back a little bit,” Yazel said.

Clark County reported 20 new COVID-19 cases on Monday. The county’s 7-day moving average peaked at 121 in January. It has since dropped to 21.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.