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Hospitals strained
COVID crisis on rise again
River Park COVID.jpg
Ascension Saint Thomas River Park nurse Wiley Mullinax, left, and CEO Dale Humphrey stand outside the hospital's COVID wing on Tuesday.

COVID patients are once again putting a strain on hospitals.

“We’re flirting with full capacity,” said Ascension Saint Thomas River Park CEO Dale Humphrey. “It depends on the day and depends on the hour. We’re just about maxed out. At times we’re full and then we’ll have a few beds open, then we’re full again.”

Warren County currently has 199 active COVID cases, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, and the number of deaths, which had long held steady at 84, has crept up to 87 in recent weeks.

One of those deaths occurred over the weekend at River Park. Humphrey said it was the local hospital’s first COVID death since May 14.

Humphrey pointed out that larger hospitals where River Park sends its most severe patients are in the exact same situation. This includes facilities in Nashville, Chattanooga and Murfreesboro. 

“With school starting back up, in the next few weeks I expect us to be over capacity,” said Humphrey. “This is not what anyone wants to hear, but this is worse than before. The only way I can see it getting better is with mass vaccinations or with mass infections.”

Wiley Mullinax is a nurse in the COVID wing at River Park. He doesn’t like the way COVID cases have shot up very quickly.

“We’re getting close to the peak of where we were the first time and we’re just getting started,” said Mullinax. “One big thing I’m noticing is patient age is much younger. During the first peak over the winter, I’d say the patients were 60 to 85, in that age range. Now the patients are 35 to 60. We’re definitely seeing a shift. A lot of people who are being hospitalized now are in the age group where they thought if they got COVID they would be OK and not have any problems.”

Humphrey said about 90% of the people being hospitalized are unvaccinated. One of the main criteria for being admitted is a need for oxygen.