Faith Regional COVID hospitalizations rise, disease expert pleads for more to get vaccinated

NORFOLK, NE — Dr. Afua Ntem-Mensah has seen it all while treating COVID-19 patients at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk.

The infectious disease expert and the hospital’s 2020 Physician of the Year says coronavirus patients span all ages, sizes and backgrounds. But there is one thing all of her patients say.

“One thing I hear from admitted patients in the hospital is that, ‘I would not wish this on anyone. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.’ So all that I will keep saying is vaccination, vaccination, vaccination,” Mensah said.

And she’s saying that louder than ever as the delta variant causes a global spike in COVID-19 cases. Northeast Nebraska hasn’t been immune. Mensah says she went from seeing almost no COVID hospitalizations a few months ago to getting about two new hospitalizations per day.

“It’s really a stressful time for each and every healthcare staff (member) who have to take care of these patients," Mensah said. "We do our best but at the same time, if we can prevent it, we might as well do it.”

In a virtual news conference on Monday, Mensah addressed some misconceptions she’s heard. She says the vaccines don’t affect pregnancy, that she hopes full FDA approval will arrive in the next few months, and if you’re worried about vaccine side effects, your’e the one who should be next in line to get it.

“A COVID infection by itself will give you blood clots ten times over, 100 times over, compared to the vaccination giving you any side effects at all,” Mensah said.

She’s also urging people to get tested immediately if they show any symptoms. If someone tests positive within the first five days of getting symptoms, she might be able to give them the monoclonal antibody treatment Regeneron.

“Some of my patients have renamed Regeneron to ‘Magic Juice’ because it works wonders," Mensah said. "It makes them feel better quickly and it prevents them from getting into the second phase of illness that will land them in the hospital.”

COVID-19 testing is available at Faith Regional Physician Services Urgent Care or any of the Faith Regional Physician Services family medicine clinics. COVID-19 testing is also available at many other doctor offices in and around the area.

COVID-19 vaccination is available through Faith Regional. Appointments can be made by calling (402) 844-8244. Vaccinations are also available through the local health departments and many area pharmacies.