By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
River Park CEO paints deadly picture
Dale Humphrey.jpg
Dale Humphrey

Ascension Saint Thomas River Park Hospital had five COVID deaths over the weekend, hospital CEO Dale Humphrey told the McMinnville Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday night.

In addition to those five patients who tested positive for COVID and died, the hospital had another death from a patient who needed a higher level of care, but was unable to be transferred to another facility because the large number of COVID cases prevented new patients from being admitted.

“We need everyone to know that you need to do everything you can to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Humphrey. “You need to get vaccinated if you can. People are dying. I know that none of us like to be told what to do, but your choice will impact not just you. It can impact others and actually cost them their lives.”

During the city board’s recognition of visitors, a time when community members are allowed to address city officials, Humphrey offered a splash of cold, harsh reality about the pandemic, sicknesses, deaths, the strain on hospitals, and the state of River Park. 

Humphrey did not paint a pretty picture.

“You may know the Delta Variant is rampant in our community and across Tennessee and across our nation,” said Humphrey. “Our hospitalizations are up 14 fold. Our ICU patients are up 11 fold and our COVID-19 patients on a vent are up 13 fold across the state.”

Children and young adults are dying.

“Pediatrics is also faring much worse than it was previously,” Humphrey said. “In our state currently, we have documented 14 deaths of children under the age of 20 and 66 in their 20s.” 

Humphrey said Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis announced yesterday it had another pediatric death, bringing its total to three just this month.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated people are contracting the virus. However, only unvaccinated people are dying, said Humphrey.

Said Humphrey, “Saint Thomas facilities, the 10 in Tennessee, have currently got 214 COVID patients hospitalized with 86% of those unvaccinated. The other 14% have received at least one vaccine. However, they have had no deaths in the vaccinated category.”

Humphrey says there have been 18 deaths since Friday, Aug. 20 in Saint Thomas hospitals alone, and six of those deaths were at Saint Thomas River Park over the weekend. 

“On July 4, there were 53 total deaths within Saint Thomas hospitals. Today, there are 803 COVID-19 deaths. We have had 18 deaths since Friday. Looking at Saint Thomas River Park, trying to bring it local, we’ve got 13 hospitalized patients currently. On July 4, we had zero.”

Humphrey clarified, “I’m using July 4 because this is the lowest point in Tennessee’s history of COVID hospitalizations. We were down to 195. So, that’s why I used July 4.”

“On July 4 at River Park, we had zero COVID patients – none in the ICU and none on a ventilator. Today, we have six patients in the ICU and one on a ventilator. We had six deaths over the weekend. In my five-year tenure here, I do not remember a weekend where we had six deaths total.”

Warren County is below the vaccination rate.

“Currently, in Warren County, the vaccination rate is 37.5% of those that have received at least one vaccine. That is 11% below the state average and 24% below the national average. Yesterday, we saw 92 patients in our emergency department. In all four of the Saint Thomas regional facilities we are shifting staff between facilities. We are shifting patients between facilities.”

Shifting isn’t always possible, says Humphrey, who says people with illnesses not related to COVID-19 are dying because they cannot receive proper care when shifting is not possible due to patient overcrowding.

“We have reached several points in the last two weeks where we can no longer transfer patients. Saint Thomas hospitals are full. Centennial is full. Vanderbilt is full. There is wax and wanes depending on the day, the time and the circumstances, but we are seeing patients die who don’t have COVID because we cannot transfer them to higher levels of care.”

Saint Thomas River Park has been treating some COVID-19 patients with monoclonal antibody treatments. 

However, that treatment is most effective when given within the first five days, or up to 10 days, depending on how sick the patient has become. 

“Monoclonal antibody is the treatment that President Trump took that got him back on his feet in two days,” said Humphrey. “We are very successful with it.”

The worst is yet to come, says Humphrey. 

“We are seeing personal circumstances where entire families are infected with COVID-19. The Delta Variant is much more contagious and infectious. At our current trajectory we are going to peak sometime in mid-September. It’s not going to go away until sometime around Christmas, at the current projections.”

Several community members spoke, both in favor of vaccinations and wearing facemasks, and against vaccinations and wearing masks.