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KSMU is dedicated to broadcasting critically important information as our community experiences the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, you'll find our ongoing coverage.

CoxHealth Reopens COVID-19 Unit To Prepare For Uptick In Unvaccinated Critically Ill Patients

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Michele Skalicky
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CoxHealth officials are urging people to continue to get tested for COVID-19 and to seek medical care immediately if they suspect they have the illness.

The healthcare system reopened its 51-bed COVID-19 unit on Friday after getting a wave of patients with the illness, nine from Thursday into Friday.  Their COVID-19 ICU, with a capacity of eight, was full.  And CoxHealth president and CEO Steve Edwards said they wanted to prepare for the weekend and the possibility of more patients.  Two of the eight in the ICU were from Greene County, two from Webster County and four from the Branson area.  Their ages range from 52 to 86. And most have comorbidities such and heart disease, diabetes or obesity.

Edwards said they’re seeing patients coming in who have not been vaccinated and who are late in the disease process when some treatment options can no longer be used. 

“If you’re critically ill (with COVID-19), we need you in the hospital earlier,” said CoxHealth infectious disease specialist, Dr. Robin Trotman.  “We can bend the curve.  Our treatment, our critical care is so much better than it was a year ago.  We’re using therapies with more precision.”  And, he said they’re able to delay therapies such as intubation.

The current wave of patients coming in looks very different than this time last year, according to Trotman.  “Last year we saw nursing home patients, 80-year-old patients debilitated,” he said.  “This is a very different wave.  Universally they’re unvaccinated people who are coming in with COVID pneumonia.”

Trotman said they are younger people with jobs who have come in late in the disease process and have denied the vaccine.

Edwards and Trotman attribute the uptick in cases to vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation, pandemic fatigue and a reluctance to take measures that can prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as mask wearing, social distancing and sticking close to home. 

He and Edwards urge people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“None of us are invincible,” said Edwards, “and the vaccine’s really important, and the data is almost 100 percent that a vaccine is effective against getting severe disease, hospitalization and mortality.”

COVID-19 cases are up in Michigan, Europe and the U.S. coasts, according to Trotman, and that’s part of the reason he told his team two weeks ago to prepare to reopen the COVID-19 tower.