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IU Health: January 2022 set to be deadliest pandemic month among their hospitals

"Our census is still incredibly high."
Posted at 3:34 PM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 23:20:06-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana University Health leaders say as of Thursday, 274 people have died across their healthcare system so far in January 2022. That's the same number of people who died in December 2020, which was the highest death total month.

"It's difficult to describe the enormity of the disappointment in the death. All of our team members have just seen so much death from COVID and it really does eventually just get to you," Dr. Paul Calkins, Vice President and Associate Chief Medical Executive, said.

As of Thursday, IU Health reported 567 COVID-19 patients across its 16 hospital system, down from its peak of about 640. 27 of those patients are at Riley Hospital for Children. Around 70% of those who are hospitalized are unvaccinated; those numbers are closer to 90% when talking about ICU and ventilated patients.

"Our census is still incredibly high and our hospitals are all full and continue to be that way," Dr. Chris Weaver, Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, said.

The U.S. Navy Department of Defense team, which first got to IU Methodist Hospital around Christmas, is scheduled to be there through mid-to-late February. National Guard teams are also still assisting.

MORE: U.S. Navy team speaks about experiences during deployment at IU Methodist

IU Health also discussed:

Elective surgeries:

Dr. Calkins says surgeries can be placed into three categories: elective, urgent and emergent.

  • Elective - tonsillectomies, joint replacement
  • Urgent - needs to be taken of fairly quickly - most cancer surgeries, spine surgery with threatening paralysis
  • Emergent- heart attack, severe bleeding "immediately threatening to life or limb."

IU Health says there is a backlog of thousands of elective surgeries across its 16 hospital systems that it would love to do, and there are discussions about resuming them as early as next week.

"We're going to have to start slowly because we still have a significant COVID burden plus remember a lot of our surgery people are at home with COVID right now so we only have a limited capacity. It's going to take awhile for us to ramp back up," Dr. Calkins said.

Herd immunity:

Dr. Calkins says Hoosiers need to "move beyond the concept" of reaching herd immunity when it comes to COVID-19.

"The idea that we're going to stamp out this disease, it's just not really a concept that's relevant at this particular point," he said.


Around 50% of IU Health's ventilators are in use right now, leaving "plenty of capacity," according to Weaver.

Dr. Michele Saysana, Vice President of Safety, Quality & Patient Improvement says there are treatments and therapies available for COVID-19 patients but there are "very, very small" quantities that hospitals have access to.

"We point that out because it's not like these treatments are available for everyone who has COVID — there just is not enough of that to go around," Saysana said.

IU Health says it has 4-6 months of PPE supplies on hand and is in a "very strong position."

You can watch the entire update below: