The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients jumped by nearly 27% during the Fourth of July weekend in a hard-hit area of Missouri where vaccination rates are low, leading to a lack of temporary ventilators and a public call for help from respiratory therapists.
The Delta variant, first identified in India, is spreading rapidly, straining hospitals in Springfield and raising fresh fears that the situation could soon worsen when holiday meetings sow almost fresh air. Missouri leads the nation with the newest homes per capita in the past 14 days.
As of Monday, CoxHealth and the city’s other hospital, Mercy Springfield, were treating 213 COVID-19 patients, up from 168 on Friday. As of May 24, the two hospitals had only 31 patients.
“From what we’ve seen in the last month, everyone is just catching their breath, especially after a holiday weekend like this, knowing that there have been great meetings,” said Erik Frederick, Mercy Springfield’s chief executive. .
Many communities that gathered at the Fourth of July festivities last year were held this year.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson tweeted a photo of himself at an art party in the tourist town of Branson, a large crowd behind him. In the surrounding area, only 29.3% of residents received at least one COVID-19 vaccine fired, state data show. It is below the state rate of 44.7% and the national rate of 54.7% but not unlike many other southwestern Missouri communities. Some have vaccination rates in adolescence.
Parson asked people last week to get vaccinated. But he still refused to enforce restrictions to control the spread of the virus, urging residents instead to take “personal responsibility.” Missouri has never had a masked warrant, and Parson signed a law last month putting limits on public health restrictions and preventing governments from requiring a vaccination test to use public facilities and transportation.
His communications staff did not immediately return an email Monday from The Associated Press. Neither did the spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
CoxHealth in Springfield transferred four or five patients a day for the past week to 10 days while trying to bring in more nurses traveling to help, said Ashley Kimberling Casad, vice president of clinical services at the hospital.
“Our projections only show us to continue to rise,” he said, noting that positivity rates are rising. “We generally saw an increase in hospitalizations about two weeks after the big events, so I knew it was the holiday weekend and probably a lot of people spent time with family and friends and with our vaccination rates as well. low, we’re going to expect that in two weeks it gets really, really busy. ”
The situation is a complication because the hospital has only about a third of the 280 ambulance nurses who had had peak winter growth and work for a backlog of patients who have deferred routine care during the surge. This means it cannot handle as many COVID-19 patients as it could once.
Kimberling Casad said traveling nurses are even harder to find.
“They’ve worked very hard all winter and spring and they’ve made good money so they want to take the leave this summer and get to spend it with their family and have fun, so we have a lot of places for traveling nurses, but we’re just having a harder time getting into them, ”he said.
So far, Mercy Springfield has been able to avoid transfers, but the situation has worsened so quickly that it ended up without fans at one point over the weekend and had to take out more loans, Frederick said.
“Luckily we had some before we had another patient who needed it, so we were able to keep moving and have a surplus on hand if we needed it, so we scaled the ventilators very quickly.” , he said. “We went from the 30s to the 40s to almost 50s in about 72 hours.”
In a tweet, he encouraged any respiratory therapist to “call” them.
Frederick said forecasts show that his number of patients will continue to climb until early August before the numbers begin to slowly decline until October.
“We never thought we would come back here,” he said, adding, “Unfortunately we live in a region where the vaccine has not been adopted. It has not been accepted and we are here with hospitals full of COVID patients.”