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Doctors encourage safe gatherings for the holidays as COVID-19 cases increase

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 1:58 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - As patients fill up hospital beds right before Thanksgiving, doctors say they’re becoming more concerned.

Doctors at Bryan Health and CHI Health hospitals said that with colder temperatures and the holidays, comes indoor gatherings and they are already at capacity with patients.

“We have a lot of anxiety about the coming weeks because we are operating at a high capacity and it continues to be a challenge,” said Dr. Kevin Reichmuth, a pulmonary critical care doctor at Bryan Health.

The state of Nebraska is up to 513 COVID-19 patients, which is a 37-percent increase in the last month. COVID-19 patients represent about 1/5 of all people in the hospital right now.

“For me that’s really concerning. So, with all that in mind, I think the best tools we have is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Renuda Vivekanandan, the infectious disease division chief at the CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center.

According to the Bryan Health dashboard, about 75-percent of COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated. CHI Health shares similar numbers. Dr. Vivekanandan said the patients she sees are mostly younger adults who are otherwise healthy.

“They have a really severe infection and they are on a ventilator and it’s just really heartbreaking,” Dr. Vivekanandan said.

Doctors said it’s also important to avoid getting together with family and friends if you’re sick. For those who are healthy, they encourage taking extra precautions.

“You can protect others by wearing a mask if you were gathering in a group like that especially if you’re unvaccinated,” Dr. Reichmuth said.

“I also think it’s important to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, so let’s do it responsibly. Let’s get vaccinated, stay healthy and see our friends and family like we all deserve to because it’s been a rough two years,” Dr. Vivekanandan said.

In addition to COVID-19, they want people to be careful and limit spread of other respiratory illnesses, including the flu.

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