Vaccines

Dignity Health Mark Twain Medical Center promotes a vaccination clinic in February 2021.

Health officials are upping the ante with their latest advisory that residents of the sixteenth least-vaccinated county in the state should get the jab, as Calaveras County’s only hospital nears capacity due to a mounting COVID-19 surge.

Dignity Health Mark Twain Medical Center (MTMC) in San Andreas has seen a “significant increase” in Covid-related hospitalizations this week, according to MTMC administration. The influx of patients threatened to overwhelm the small, rural hospital on Friday

MTMC typically operates with a daily census of nine inpatients, but on Friday, there were 17 total patients hospitalized, seven of whom were Covid-positive, MTMC president and CEO Doug Archer told the Enterprise.

All seven Covid patients are unvaccinated, he added. One of those patients is on a ventilator, leaving seven remaining ventilators available for use at the hospital. 

“An ongoing staffing shortage threatens to worsen the situation if numbers continue to grow,” a press release issued by the county health department reads. “Staff are working hard to keep up with the current surge as administration searches for additional help. (Archer) has requested additional resources and traveling medical professionals with little success.”

On Monday, the county health department announced a change in its case-tracking method in order to reduce strain on workers tasked with tracking down the growing number of active cases. 

The local crisis comes as neighboring hospitals in the San Joaquin Valley Region, which includes Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties, are also experiencing a surge of patients and low availability of ICU beds.

As of Thursday the region had fewer ICU beds available than any other region in California, with about 11 staffed adult ICU beds available and roughly 49 adult ICU beds occupied by Covid patients, according to state-collected data.

“Many hospitals are experiencing similar situations when trying to bring in relief staff. We’re all going to the same well but the well is quickly drying up,” Archer said. “Our hardworking hospital staff are wiped out after almost two years of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Calaveras County’s vaccine rate is lower than most other counties in the state, with 42.2% fully vaccinated, according to an L.A. Times vaccine tracker.

Local health officials on Friday urged residents to get the jab, citing that the county’s low vaccine rate “may be contributing” to the rise in hospitalizations.

A recent Union Democrat report showed that out of 50 total Covid patients hospitalized at Adventist Health Sonora between Aug. 1 and Aug. 14, 43 were unvaccinated, four were fully-vaccinated and three were partially-vaccinated or had an unknown vaccine status. Fifteen of the total patients were in ICU and nine were on ventilators, all of whom were unvaccinated.

“An approach to reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations is centered around vaccination and other approaches such as masking and physical distancing. People can schedule a free COVID-19 vaccine appointment by visiting myturn.ca.gov,” Calaveras County Public Health stated.

Members of the public are still encouraged to seek care at Dignity Health clinics for non-emergent medical care. MTMC requests that patients who need to go to the hospital limit their visit to a single caregiver to avoid overcrowding. The hospital will continue to triage patients while operating near capacity.

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Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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