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5 more Greene County residents die of COVID-19 as cases climb.

Stethoscope
Julio César Velásquez Mejía
/
Pixabay
A doctor wears a stethoscope

Area hospitals are bracing for even greater numbers of patients in the coming weeks.

Greene County’s rolling seven-day average of daily COVID-19 cases is now at 409, the most it’s been since the pandemic began. Jon Mooney, assistant director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said they’ve seen a 62 percent increase in cases in the last week.

“As we feared, omicron has taken ahold of our community,” said Mooney at a media availability on Wednesday.

COVID-19 deaths

Five county residents have died of COVID-19 in the last week, bringing the total number of deaths this month to eight.

In an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the health department is partnering with area organizations, including the Springfield-Greene County Library, to distribute N95 masks to people who don’t have access to them. And the health department has launched a campaign to urge the community to take precautions such as wearing a mask, getting vaccinated and staying home when sick.

“We are in the throes of what could be the worst surge of COVID-19 yet, one that is exacerbated by omicron. Over the past two years, we’ve all been called on to do our part, and it’s been difficult. However, these actions are protecting our community and will save lives,” said Mooney.

If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed, Mooney said to seek testing and stay at home until you get a negative test result or symptoms are gone. He advised wearing a mask for five days after isolation.

Hospitals are seeing a large jump in patients seeking care

Area hospitals, urgent cares and emergency departments are operating at beyond capacity at the same time they’re seeing a reduction in available staff due to illness among employees.

Amanda Hedgpeth, president of Springfield Hospitals at CoxHealth, said they’re bracing for the impact of the coming surge.

“Based on the positive rates we’re tracking, our current projections suggest we could be at over 220 inpatients by next week. We hope these projections are high if omicron turns to be less severe than prior disease and prior variants, but we will be prepared,” said Hedgpeth.

There were 156 COVID-19 patients at CoxHealth on Wednesday. Twenty-three were in critical care, and 18 were on ventilators.

There were 127 patients at Mercy Springfield, and 22 were in the ICU, 14 of them on ventilators.

As of Wednesday, there were around 300 staff members out due to COVID-19, about 10 percent of CoxHealth’s workforce. Hedgpeth said that percentage could go higher based on what’s happening in St. Louis and Kansas City where up to 10 percent of staff have been out sick at one time.

Mercy Springfield Communities had 272 staff members out due to COVID-19 on Wednesday.

At Jordan Valley Community Health Center, ten percent of employees were tested Monday because they had symptoms of COVID-19, which is unprecedented, according to Dr. Matthew Stinson, vice-president of Medical and Behavioral Health Services

Jordan Valley Community Health Center is seeing patients with COVID-19 symptoms, and Stinson said their role “is to help offload the emergency rooms…every patient that we see through our facility takes one away that needs to be seen in an emergency room.”

CoxHealth is rescheduling some well visits and other routine care at its primary care clinics for the next 30 to 45 days to allow doctors to care for sick patients.

“The coming weeks will be intense for our healthcare staff,” said Hedgpeth, “and it’s a time for our community to come together and meet the challenges. We continue to expect busy hospitals, emergency departments and urgent cares. We are asking for patience and understanding.”

Healthcare professionals continue to urge people to get vaccinated

Healthcare officials continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated. Vaccines have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death. Craig McCoy, president of Mercy Springfield Communities, said only two percent of those who have died at his hospital since last July were vaccinated. Of the 127 patients currently hospitalized at Mercy Springfield, just 23 are vaccinated and six have received their booster shots.

Find out where to get a COVID-19 vaccine or a test at health.springfieldmo.gov.

An interactive map to find testing locations is available here.