CHA staff nearly fully vaccinated; cases sloping downward, again

The good news on the hospitalization front from CHA Everett is that not much has changed in either direction, but the hospital is handling the load according to plan and well on their way to having the staff fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

The numbers of those testing positive in the hospital’s catchment area seems to be on the decline, and the hospital is reporting that there are cases in large numbers, but nothing has gotten out of control.

“The good news is there isn’t too much different from two weeks ago, but that also might be the bad news,” said Dr. Melisa Lai-Becker, chief of the Emergency Department at CHA Everett. “We’re getting back into the rhythm of care and coordination. Overall, in the last two weeks, while we may have fewer overall admitted patients and more available room to get patients into the hospital, it’s also been a time of figuring out the care of patients who are beyond the acute phase and still need eyes on them.”

That has meant some patients are now being sent to field hospitals in Lowell and Worcester for the longer recovery times, but at the same time there isn’t a panic going on.

“There’s nothing about it that is frantic,” she said. “Everything has been good, calm and measured…Rather than complacency, the hospital has enforced our plan. All that planning from last summer and fall that’s we see in action here now…We’re happy to press on and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Statistics show that in the catchment area of the hospital (Malden, Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Winthrop, Cambridge and Somerville), there was a peak of cases in the week of Jan. 11, with 3,100 cases. Now, however, the same area is reporting 2,500 positive cases. At CHA, since March, they have tested 100,000 people, and about 8,000 have been positive.

Now, a new precaution has been implemented on the testing front to make sure the hospital if monitored for COVID-19. Now, every four days one is in the hospital or Emergency Department, they are tested for their COVID status.

•VACCINATIONS FOR STAFF MOVING WELL

Though there have been glitches and line-jumping at some institutions, that is not the case at CHA Everett when it comes to vaccinating the staff. Dr. Lai-Becker reported that about 75 percent of the CHA staff has received the first dose of the vaccine and 25 percent have received both doses. By the end of the month, they expect to be able to vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated on the staff.

•PLANNING FOR VACCINATIONS OF THE PUBLIC

The hospital and its networks are now in the planning stages for figuring out how to vaccinate all of their patients when the time comes for that.

“CHA as a whole is working on how we can vaccinate all 140,000 of our patients, those who come to CHA for their Primary Care. We are prepping now. It’s a very intentional rollout due to the face we’re in the phase where the two part vaccine is being used…A lot of it is that every shot you get today is a shot you’ll need to get in three weeks. That’s an incredible amount of logistics, and calculations and back to the old conversation about the supply chain.”

At CHA Everett, the vaccine rollout will be through the primary care doctors, with major assists from all others like the Emergency Department. With testing to administer and follow-ups to book, many primary care doctors will need a tremendous amount of help. She said they will likely be using visits to the hospital, the health care centers, pop-up vaccination sites and maybe a larger site that isn’t Fenw ay Park.

She said many are at the point where there’s a lot of familiarity with the plan and they simply want to let it loose.

“We know where the bottlenecks are,” she said. “Let’s just get everybody vaccinated. We’re at a point where we could get everyone vaccinated within a timeframe and thinking less about trying to prioritize the elderly or essential workers.”

She said she believes the area is near an inflection point where it will simply be about anyone getting vaccinated can get vaccinated.

“I would think we’ll hit this inflection point in the next two to four weeks where they start giving the vaccine to every person no matter who they are – get vaccinated if you want it because that’s just one more and it gets us closer to herd immunity.”

•NO NEED TO HORD PPE

About one week ago, a momentous occasion took place at the hospital.

Everyone had enough N95 mask.

Dr. Lai-Becker said for the first time since the pandemic broke out, they do not need to recycle or use the viral decay system they have been doing so long to preserve their mask supply.

Instead, they can go to the supply area and get five masks to use for five shifts. Before, they used every mask five to eight times and then got rid of it. Now, they can use one mask per shift, and then get rid of it, while still having confidence they will have more waiting for them the next shift.

“I never thought that would ever happen,” she said with a laugh. “When that news came out, you can imagine people began to ask if it was wrong to hoard masks. And did they even need to?”

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