COVID cases and hospitalizations steadily going down

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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.--In St. Joseph County and as a nation, keeping COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations steadily down, hasn’t been an easy task. However, we’ve certainly come a long way, and have made drastic steps toward pointing the pandemic in the right direction over the last two years.

During the month of February in 2020, COVID cases were multiplying, and countries began to restrict travel to contain the spread of the virus. 

In February of 2021, we faced challenges as a nation of not having enough vaccine supply to meet the high demands. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine was also in the works of becoming widely available as a different, one and done vaccine option at that time.

Right now, in February 2022, after experiencing a huge spike in cases coming into the new year, we are finally seeing some relief with a decline in hospitalizations and case counts.

In January of 2022, the spike in hospitalizations rivaled one of the worst increases during the pandemic. However, the 7-day positivity rate in St. Joseph County for COVID cases as dropped to 16.6% last week, down from 27% just weeks prior.

“We were seeing hospitalizations in our five larger hospitals in this area in the 200 to 250 range altogether, and that’s gotten much better! Over this week, it’s dropped a lot, by yesterday across the region and the 5 larger hospitals, the number was down to 85. And today in St. Joseph Health System, we have 42 patients hospitalized for treatment for their COVID. That’s less than half than what we were seeing,” St. Joseph Health System Chief Clinical Officer Genevieve Lankowicz said.

Dr. Lankowicz said the impacts that area hospitals faced during the first surge of COVID-positive patients and high hospitalizations, which happened back in November of 2020, were about equivalent to the state of this year’s second-largest spike. She says this latest spike forced patients to remain in the emergency department, waiting on the availability of hospital beds, and many patients are putting off important health visits because they are fearful of being exposed. Scheduling for surgeries and other patient care was impacted too, due to not having enough rooms. Hospital capacities, also hit their max during this time.

“Hospital capacities were over 100% for a few weeks during this last omicron surge, and that is similar to how things were last fall,” Dr. Lankowicz said.

The drop in cases is definitely a huge sigh of relief to many hospitals and staff members who have been dealing with feelings of burn out and fatigue. However, Dr. Lankowicz says it’s a little too early to celebrate. She said our area really needs to focus on getting our vaccination numbers up in order to see more of a steady 7-day average.

In St. Joseph County, 56.5% of the population has completed their vaccine series, and 27.8% have received their COVID-19 booster. These percentages in some of our area counties, though, are even smaller. To name a few, Elkhart County only has 43.2% of their population fully vaccinated and 17.6% boosted. In LaGrange, only 21.9% are inoculated, with only 10.2% boosted.

Dr. Lankowicz says that in order to get these numbers down, and to essentially stay down, more residents should roll up their sleeves to slow the spread of the virus and fight against more contagious variants.

“We do need more people to have immune resistance for the virus or for severe I’ll was requiring hospital care due to the virus. That does mean vaccinations and boosters,” Dr. Lankowicz said. “We will all be very pleased when we can move on to the COVID-19 endemic phase where we have a more predictable volume of people who are coming down with COVID.”

All of this comes, as a new study says effectiveness of the booster begins to decrease after 4 months.

There are several vaccine clinics happening in St. Joseph County and other area counties if you still want to get your COVID shot or booster. Here's a list of the clinics taking place this week:

February 15, 2022, 3 PM- 5:30 PM: SJHS Pavilion II, 707 E. Cedar St, South Bend 46617

February 18, 2022, 9:30 AM- 12 PM: Elkhart Excel Center, 2626 Prairie St., Elkhart 46527

February 18, 2022, 3 PM- 5:30 PM: LifePlex, 2855 Miller Drive, Ste.100, Plymouth 46563

February 19, 2022, 10 AM- 12 PM: Robinson Learning Center, 1004 N. Eddy St., South Bend 46617

The STRIKE team will also be arriving to the area this month on February 23-26, but the location and times haven’t been released yet.

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