Bryan Hospital CMO: Most of the Hospital's COVID-19 Patients Not Vaccinated

July 21, 2021, 7 a.m. ·

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Bryan Hospital's Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Trapp is also a pulmonologist and critical care physician. Nebraska Public Media's Jackie Ourada spoke with Dr. Trapp about the current situation regarding COVID-19 and the trends he's seeing for the immediate future. An edited version of that interview follows.

Jackie Ourada, Nebraska Public Media: We've seen hospitalization rates and case numbers increase in the past few weeks. What can you tell us about the COVID-19 patients at Bryan hospital right now?

Dr. John Trapp, Bryan Hospital Chief Medical Officer: Two weeks ago, I would have said that over half of our patients were less than the age of 50, and looking at our numbers that I was able to pull for you today, we're seeing probably a majority of those patients who are older than the age of 60. So certainly seeing some higher age numbers. Twelve of them are over the age of 65. So that's a concern -- when you have 22 patients and 12, over half, are aged 65, so that's always a concern to me. And we know that vaccination is helpful in decreasing your risk, but it's not an absolute prevention strategy. So some of our patients in the hospital are vaccinated, and due to maybe immune dysfunction or immune limitations but still end up with the illness.

Jackie Ourada: What can you tell us, overall, about hospitalized COVID-19 patients and their vaccination status?

Dr. John Trapp: I don't have the exact numbers. I would say the majority have been not vaccinated. I don't have specific numbers. That's a one-on-one -- I have to go through each patient's chart to pull that out. We don't have a way of verifying that, because oftentimes they will have been vaccinated outside the hospital. And so if the patient tells us they are or are not vaccinated, we tend to take their word for it, and we don't go back and try to validate all of those. One, it doesn't change what we do. With the way vaccinations have been perceived, if they tell us they're vaccinated -- great. If they're not vaccinated, we treat them the same. The majority, based on historical pattern, currently, are not vaccinated.

Dr. John Trapp
Bryan Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Trapp. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Health)

Jackie Ourada: With cases increasing, some areas like L.A. have considered implementing mask mandates again. How likely do you think we'll have to start weighing those decisions here at home?

Dr. John Trapp: Tough question on this one, and sometimes it really hits some very difficult spots with people, but talking about mask mandates from a pulmonary perspective, from a medical perspective -- we know masks are helpful in preventing the spread of disease. We've seen areas say "let's get back to masking because it does help prevent spread." And this is a respiratory illness. It's spread by droplets from coughing or talking that occurs within people, and so it's important to use any preventative strategy that we can. So, distancing, avoiding large crowded areas, indoor gatherings in particular, compared to outdoor gatherings, and we know masking can be very effective when you are in some of those situations.

Jackie Ourada: So what do you think that looks like this fall, let's say, with only a portion of teens being vaccinated and school getting back into session?

Dr. John Trapp: I think it's certainly possible if we see a bump up in numbers that schools are going to have to say, "How do we manage that?" or "Do we go back to remote teaching? Do we remain in person and use masking mandates?" You know, Dr. Rauner has been involved -- I think he's a member of the LPS (Lincoln Public Schools) school board. Bob Rauner. I know those are questions being addressed to him. With regard to that, it just becomes such a hot topic with parents "for" or "against." I think that's part of the challenge in that.

Jackie Ourada: I also want to ask how are you and your staff doing, especially with yet, you know, another increase of COVID-19 cases and patients again.

Dr. John Trapp: Just challenging. The staff has really been stretched and this has been more than just a short sprint. At times a high sprint, and that's really stressful on some of the staff, and we don't know how long this will continue on. And that's some of the challenges, so we'd love to see this pandemic move toward a close. We're just not out of this yet, and I think people need to not let their guard down and realize that we do have some tools at hand to prevent this disease from progressing. And that includes vaccination and the things that we used early on in the pandemic, which we found effective -- the masking, and social distancing, and washing. Those types of solutions were all effective early on. No one wants to mandate anything to individual citizens, but the important thing is to say, "How do we protect people in our vulnerable population from this disease?" And sometimes the greater good needs to be served, and those are some of the challenges of balancing individual rights versus the community.