FHN Experts Talk about Area's COVID-19 Progress

January 18, 2021 – FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, and Emergency Department Medical Director Erich Awender, MD talk about the region's success in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and Dr. Awender shares details on his own fight with the disease in the latest FHN COVID-19 update video.

Dr. Awender contracted COVID-19 in late October 2020 after about 8 months of seeing COVID-positive patients.

"Since the onset (of COVID-19) in January, I've probably seen 1 to 2 patients each shift, and when we've had upticks, I've seen 5 or 6 or even more each shift," Awender said.

He first suspected he had COVID-19 when he noticed a change in his senses of taste and smell. Dr. Awender missed three weeks of work with COVID-19 and reports his senses of taste and smell and his energy levels haven't yet returned to normal.

His advice to the community mirrors Mark Gridley's - stay diligent about social distancing, wear a mask, practice good hand hygiene and stay home if you are sick.

Gridley reports that FHN's leaders are working with area county health departments to coordinate getting community members vaccinated. Our area is in phase 1a of the Illinois Department of Public Health plan, and the vaccine will be made available to the public as soon as it's possible.

FHN is well-prepared to care for any upcoming surge in cases, with plenty of beds, healthcare staff, and ventilators available. FHN's frontline staffers are in the process of being vaccinated. "We are using both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine," Gridley said. "A number of staff members have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and are now considered to be 95 percent protected from the virus. Several hundred staff members have received at least their first dose of the Moderna vaccine, as well, at the time of this video production."

The video, along with all of the previous weeks' videos, is available on FHN's COVID-19 information site, www.fhn.org/coronavirus.