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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.

Delta Variant Hospitalizes Younger Patients as CoxHealth Runs Short on Staff

Photo Courtesy of CoxHealth
File Photo
Photo Courtesy of CoxHealth

CoxHealth is reporting soaring numbers of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, putting a strain on staff as the delta variant moves from person to person in an area with low rates of vaccination. 

According to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, 98 COVID patients are in critical care across hospitals in Greene County, passing the previous record of 58 in November. The total number of hospitalized COVID patients was 227 as of Tuesday.

Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth, says the healthcare system has 127 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. He says CoxHealth forecasts 170 hospitalized in two weeks. While he says the hospital has enough ventilators and oxygen for patients in the ICU, the main problem is finding respiratory therapists to care for these patients. He put out a call for specialists on Twitter, and says 66 who reached out will start working at Cox soon.

According to Edwards, the delta variant, which is affecting over 90% of COVID patients admitted to Cox, is attacking otherwise healthy patients. Age and underlying conditions, he says, can no longer be seen as reliable markers of susceptibility.

“The delta variant has got to be looked almost as a different disease, Edwards says. "It’s affecting younger people, it’s sicker. And we’re getting sick quicker.”

A more reliable marker is whether or not a person is vaccinated. Edwards says four CoxHealth employees are hospitalized with COVID-19. The oldest is 31. None is vaccinated.

Josh Conaway is a graduate of Missouri State University with a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in International Affairs. He works as a news reporter and announcer at KSMU. His favorite part of the job is exploring the rich diversity of the Ozarks and meeting people with interesting stories to share. He has a passion for history and running.