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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.

Springfield Health Care Leaders Tell City Council Of The Impact Of COVID-19 At City's Hospitals

Chloe O'Neill

Springfield City Council will consider extending the current Road to Recovery phase on October 5.  The three-month extension would include the face covering ordinance.  Phase 3A is set to expire on October 11.

Council members heard from health leaders in Springfield at a meeting on Tuesday.

CoxHealth president and CEO, Steve Edwards, said there were 82 COVID-19 patients in the COVID unit at Cox South as of Tuesday.

“It is like a war zone there right now," he said.  "It is packed."

To date, 675 COVID-19 patients have been admitted to CoxHealth, and there have been 74 deaths.  Many admitted to Cox with the illness are from outside Greene County.  On average, about 30 percent of patients are Greene County residents at both Cox and Mercy, Edwards said.

And it’s not just older people who are getting seriously ill.  Edwards said there’s currently a 20-year-old college student on a ventilator in their ICU who hadn’t responded to treatment.

He's concerned that people may hear that those who died had underlying conditions, and that might lead them to think they're safe from serious COVID-19 complications. 

"I think people begin to believe that it's because they have some kind of super compromised immune system," he said.  "The most prevalent underlying condition is obesity, followed by hypertension and prediabetes...and I suspect more than 2/3 of our population are suffering from those issues right now."

They aren’t at capacity yet, according to Edwards, but Cox leaders have contemplated closing the hospital to transfers from rural hospitals.

“I worry that we're close to that," he said.  "We don't want to send that message to the community.  We want to be transparent, though, and tell you that we’re really, really close to that."

Mercy Springfield Hospitals president and COO, Brent Hubbard, said he’s also worried about reaching capacity—especially as influenza season nears.   The positivity rate of patients tested for COVID-19 at Mercy in the last week was 20 percent, according to Hubbard.  And the positivity rate of the 251 patients tested at Mercy on Monday was 24 percent.

"We're seeing that trend in the hospital as well and are seeing a record number of positive patients being hospitalized," he said, "and that is overwhelming our ERs.  It's overwhelming our inpatient staff beds, and it's just...a growing concern for us."

There were 56 COVID-19 patients at Mercy on Tuesday and 58 on Wednesday. There are currently more COVID-19 patients at Mercy Springfield than at any other Mercy hospital, according to Dr. Will Sistrunk, infectious disease specialist at Mercy.

As of Tuesday, Hubbard said there were 16 counties represented among COVID-19 patients at Mercy. 

Hubbard and Edwards are both concerned about having enough staff to care for patients.  Cox currently has 98 staff members who can't provide service right now because they're in quarantine.  At Mercy, there are 89 staff members who can't work because they're in quarantine.  Edwards said they could use another 98 nurses right now.  And, while CoxHealth has an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, there is something they need.  He encourages anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 to give convalescent plasma at the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks.

They and Springfield-Greene County Health Department director, Clay Goddard, encouraged council to extend Phase 3A. They said they would like to see a statewide mask mandate in place.  Springfield Mayor Ken McClure agreed masks should be required in Missouri.  Councilman Craig Hosmer suggested pushing harder for a statewide mandate. 

Edwards said Springfield is an island in an ocean of communities that don’t require residents to wear masks, and they’re seeing the impact of that.