By SARAH FLOWER
With the latest number of Covid-19 cases trending upward and the Delta variant’s rapid spread, health officials across the nation are concerned that the pandemic is heading in the wrong direction. Area doctors are encouraging all unvaccinated residents to get inoculated as soon as possible. KSUT’s Sarah Flower spoke with Dr. Gus Hallin from Mercy Regional Medical Center for this story.
Dr. Gus Hallin 00:00
Social media sometimes tells us what we want to hear. As a doctor, I know what people need to hear. And what you need to hear is the vaccine, they’re all very effective, and they’re going to save lives.
Sarah Flower 00:11
That’s Dr. Gus Hallin. He’s the medical director of the intensive care unit at Mercy Regional Medical Center, and has been practicing medicine for over 30 years. As Colorado announced last week that the Delta variant of the virus is the dominant strain throughout the state, Dr. Hallin believes it’s commanding this region as well.
Dr. Gus Hallin 00:31
I think we have to presume that it’s everywhere now because this variant spread so quickly, because the patients not only shed more virus, many more viral particles, so in any given moment, they’re much more contagious, but they also do so for much longer periods of time. And so they have the capability of infecting many more people.
Sarah Flower 00:51
Dr. Hallin is urgently advising those that have not been inoculated to talk to their trusted medical professionals about the safety of the vaccine over the dangers of the virus.
Dr. Gus Hallin 01:03
I would advise everybody to get that vaccine as quickly as possible. All the variants have been extremely deadly. I’ve been doing critical care medicine for 30 years. I haven’t seen anything like this since I took care of a lot of the hantavirus cases back in Albuquerque in the early 90s. I haven’t seen anything this deadly since that time. We’ve never seen anything like this. The risks of the vaccine and the risks of getting the virus are not even close. In my experience the virus is about 1000 times more dangerous than the vaccine.
Sarah Flower 01:35
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is also reporting that almost all of the new hospitalizations and deaths that the state is saying are from those that are unvaccinated. Dr. Hallin says that locally at Mercy Regional Medical Center, those numbers are comparable.
Dr. Gus Hallin 01:51
We have a smaller sample size because I only see the the folks who end up on life support and on the ventilator. In the last couple of months, that’s been the vast majority that has trended toward younger and even healthier people than we saw say a year ago.
Sarah Flower 02:05
As of yesterday CDPHE is reporting La Plata County has 68% of its eligible population with at least one dose of the vaccine, while Archuleta County shows 58% and Montezuma county at 51% of the same population. Kraig Jones is the vaccine coordinator for the COVID response team at Mercy Regional Medical Center. He says while the sheer number of people that are coming in to get vaccinated has dwindled since the start of the year, some people that have been more hesitant and have taken the wait and see approach to the vaccine are ready.
Kraig Jones 02:41
We’re still seeing people come in that were anti-vax for a long time, that I’ve seen some of the results that have been coming through, and so we are starting to tap into that population of people who are hesitant to get it. It’s slow going, but it is starting to come through. So you know, my hope is that as we move forward and keep going through the vaccine programs, that more data will show more patients will see the value and we can continue to hit those populations.
Sarah Flower 03:13
According to Dr. Hallin, in the later part of 2020, and earlier this year, the ICU at Mercy was operating with a substantial increase of patients. While he’s thankful for staff and colleagues for stepping up, he doesn’t want them to continue to operate at that level.
Dr. Gus Hallin 03:30
Our ICU nurses and respiratory therapists for most of the winter and early spring, we were functioning at about 200% of our usual capacity. And they were giving it everything they had to try to save every single one of these patients. We had nurses coming over from the emergency room down from the operating room, and I think you know if you really want to honor the effort of those nurses and respiratory therapists go and get the vaccine because they need a break and they need it soon as this has been going on too long. Your fellow Americans need you to step up here.