CRH reports increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations

An exterior view of Columbus Regional Hospital in Columbus, Ind., pictured, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Columbus Regional Hospital has seen an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past couple weeks, officials said.

As of around noon Monday, there were 14 people hospitalized at CRH due to COVID-19, up from 13 the day before and four on Nov. 14, the hospital said. At the same time, CRH’s doctor’s offices are reporting a high number of patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

And CRH officials are expecting those numbers to continue to climb due to Thanksgiving gatherings and low vaccination rates in the community.

“Viral community spread remains very high as well. Our physician offices are still also reporting high numbers and with recent holiday gatherings, and low vaccination rates, we’d expect these numbers to continue to rise,” said CRH spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue.

The new COVID-19 hospitalization rate per 100,000 people in Bartholomew County was 9.3 the week ending Nov. 18, which was approaching “medium” levels, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The increase in local hospitalizations came as COVID-19 deaths continue to rise in the Bartholomew County area and as county health officials confirmed that there have been some cases of the virus at a long-term care facility in Hope.

Six people from Bartholomew County and the surrounding area died from COVID-19 from Oct. 1 to Nov. 6, according to the Indiana Department of Health, which stopped publishing and updating its county-level COVID-19 dataset as of Nov. 15 due to the end of the federal pandemic emergency and evolving reporting requirements.

That figure includes three Bartholomew County deaths, two Jackson County deaths and one Jennings County death. The virus had killed a total 529 residents of those three counties from spring 2020 to this past Nov. 15, including 272 Bartholomew County residents.

At the same time, Bartholomew County Health Officer Dr. Brian Niedbalski said he was aware of some COVID-19 cases at Miller’s Merry Manor in Hope and that the Bartholomew County Health Department has been communicating with nurses at the facility.

However, Niedbalski said he was unaware of the exact number of cases or if any residents had been hospitalized due to the virus.

“Patients are on appropriate medications to treat their symptoms, which are being managed by providers at the facility or their own primary care physician, and positive patients are being isolated according to protocols,” Niedbalski said. “…All county nursing homes are instructed to follow universal precautions and appropriate isolation/mask wearing in regards to COVID-19.”

Health officials, for their part, are urging people to get up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines. Just 16,899 Bartholomew County residents were up to date on their COVID-19 shots as of Nov. 21, or about 1 in 5 local residents, according to the Indiana Department of Health and U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.

“We highly urge people to get the new vaccine, as it specifically catered toward this current strain that is circulating,” DeClue said. “The new vaccine does an excellent job of preventing serious illness and death, remains highly effective and safe.”