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'Tripledemic' strains Bloomington-Normal hospitals during the holidays

OSF hospital
Cristian Jaramillo

OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington has added beds to handle the rise in COVID, flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases as the "tripledemic" strains Bloomington-Normal hospitals during the holiday season.

President Lynn Fulton said OSF St. Joseph has had to transfer patients to other hospitals during the recent surge. Fulton said cases are generally less severe than during the worst of the pandemic, but the high volume of viral illnesses is concerning.

Lynn Fulton portrait
OSF HealthCare
Lynn Fulton

“It’s not as high acuity as we saw with the delta variant of COVID,” Fulton said. “At that point in time, we had more ICU-level patients than what we do today, Today, we have more medical, but there are those patients that rise to that ICU-level acuity.”

John Wieland, associate chief medical director for Carle BroMenn Medical Center and Carle Eureka Hospital, said the more severe cases of RSV appear to have leveled off, but COVID hospitalizations are not showing signs of diminishing.

“We saw a little bit of a rise due to the family gatherings around Thanksgiving. Then, influenza typically starts to peak this time of year and through January and February. We are seeing that as well,” he said.

Wieland said flu cases are up partly because it seems more people were reluctant to get the flu vaccine this year.

“That may be related to generalized vaccine hesitancy that was brought about by all the discussion, pro and con, about the COVID vaccines and the COVID boosters,” Wieland said.

RSV cases seem much higher this year, Wieland said, because infants were socially isolated during the pandemic, so they are getting it later than usual. But adults are getting it, too — and that's rare, he said.

Both hospital administrators said staffing the additional number of patients remains a challenge, but they said it has been manageable.

Wieland said he does not anticipate Thursday's winter storm will impact bed capacity at Carle hospitals, but added the facilities will have sleep rooms available for staff should they be unable to drive home after their work shifts.

Fulton said she expects hospitals will remain close to full capacity with viral illness patients well into the new year.

“I think it’s probably going to be bumpy for about the next eight weeks,” she predicted.

Fulton said no one wants to go back to isolation after a more than two-year-long pandemic, but if you are sick, stay home.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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