Message from Dr. C. Wright Pinson: VUMC called on to rise to the challenge as COVID cases surge


All indications are that we will be heading into a strengthening storm following the Thanksgiving holiday. Tennessee’s COVID metrics are getting worse as the U.S. is now approaching 200,000 new cases each day. Tragically, more than 255,000 Americans have died since the pandemic began.

Consistent with rising infection rates across the nation, over the past week we have experienced a surge in the number of COVID-19 patients now in our care. Today, due to rising admissions and what is typically a longer length of stay for these patients, we are now caring for more than 120 COVID-positive patients in our hospitals.

In addition to the enormous amount of work taking place on our campus each day to care for these patients, throughout the pandemic we have coordinated with Nashville’s other hospitals. We continue to work closely with Nashville Mayor John Cooper, our own Dr. Alex Jahangir, who continues to serve as the city’s pandemic response official, and countless others providing expertise to help shape policies and advocate for the fundamentals of masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene.

We continue to support the efforts of mayors and leaders in adjacent counties pertaining to masking in their communities. Through the Tennessee Hospital Association, we are partnered with 140 hospitals across the state in a communications campaign encouraging the public to mask. Our faculty are continually working with the news media, stressing strong public health messages to local and national audiences.  

In previous months, admissions and discharges have tended to balance out for this population. However, given the steep influx in admissions arriving from across the region, we are experiencing a steady rise in our inpatient volume by an additional four to 10 patients each day. Our modeling team projects that we will be caring for at least this many patients during the next two months and could be caring for as many as 180 hospitalized COVID patients by January.    

Anticipating this time would come, we have well-considered plans coupled with real-time decision-making by an outstanding team that includes experts at solving the challenges of caring for this patient population.

As the number of patients has increased, we continue to cohort the COVID population and are utilizing the new space in Medical Center East for their care. Should it be necessary to expand, we have additional areas identified to accommodate this need.     

Due to the surge, we are also experiencing increasing calls to our COVID hotlines while our Walk-In Clinics are again seeing more than 500 visits per day from individuals seeking COVID tests. In response, our lab is processing record numbers of tests. 

Even though we have diligently prepared over the last nine months for such an influx of patients, the volume across all areas is placing increasing stress on our staff at all levels. In response, we will need to cut back on some scheduled procedures and admissions soon if the growth of COVID patient census continues unabated.

In addition to material resources necessary to battle COVID, including space and equipment, the indispensable ingredient is all of us – our amazing and resilient colleagues who show up each day to care for others. Despite the many factors stressing our health system’s capacity, you have demonstrated amazing leadership while continuing to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and collegiality.

Please continue to reach inside yourselves to provide steady leadership, professionalism, collegiality and collaboration, and very frequent communication of issues. We will continue to need your very best in the days ahead.

I also want to reiterate the importance of taking care of yourself personally, your family, your friends, and your community. Please wear masks inside and outside of the hospital, and avoid groups of people, especially as we approach Thanksgiving.



C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD
Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Chief Health System Officer