Bates County Memorial Hospital’s CEO Greg Weaver addressed the current uptake in COVID-19 cases in the community, and in Southwest Missouri, in an interview with radio station KMAM-KMOE (92.1 FM) on July 14.
Surge in Southwest Missouri is Advance Warning
Weaver stated that in June, health officials issued warnings that the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus could become the dominant strain in the US and affect more young, healthy, unvaccinated individuals than the original strain.
“I think Missouri has been unfortunate to have the current situation in the southwest region of the state that is producing quite a few uptakes in COVID infections. We just had a meeting with CEOs from Cox Health and Mercy in Springfield, and they went from having hardly anybody [hospitalized] on June 1, to over 100 by Saturday of that week. So, their rates are going up really fast.
“That’s a signal for the rest of the state, that’s our advanced warning, I think, to look at: how is this going to migrate? We have a lot of people that go to Branson or Springfield, Lake of the Ozarks area to vacation and then come back home. Since July 1, we’ve had 36 new cases in Bates County. That has pushed us over an 11% positivity rate, so that is very concerning for us,” Weaver said in the interview recorded on July 14.
Vaccination is the Best Defense
“Here in Bates County, of the new 36 cases, only one of those had been vaccinated, and they had very mild symptoms. Down in Springfield at Cox Health, on our phone call yesterday, the majority [hospitalized] were unvaccinated, and at one hospital, all were unvaccinated, and the age group was between 20 and 40,” Weaver reported.
As of July 16, only 29.4% of Bates County residents had initiated vaccination for COVID-19, according to the DHSS – compared to 39.8% of Greene County residents initiating vaccination, where the current surge in Springfield is quickly overwhelming healthcare facilities in that area.
With the potential for another wave of COVID-19 to affect the Bates County community, Weaver stated he felt that this could be mitigated with the availability of vaccines.
“It’s clear that the decision to become vaccinated is very personal. I don’t want anybody to be forced to take the vaccine, I just want to continue to highly recommend it, but it’s still up to each individual person.”
COVID-19 Vaccine Availability
Earlier in the year, BCMH offered many COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and only halted when demand became extremely low – though all who signed up for the vaccine were able to obtain it, Weaver reported.
COVID-19 vaccines are available to any Bates County resident, at no out-of-pocket expense, at local pharmacies such as Summers Pharmacy and Walmart, as well as chain pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS. Bates County Health Center occasionally gets vaccine supply as well. The hospital’s rural health clinics have applied to the state to offer COVID-19 vaccines, but storage issues created by extremely low demand will still be a challenge, Weaver stated.
Reminder – Masks are Required in Healthcare Facilities
Mask wearing at all times – and other infection control measures – are still in place at BCMH, regardless of vaccination status.
“As a healthcare facility, we have never stopped being in pandemic mode,” Weaver said. “We are required by the CDC to still wear a mask in a healthcare facility … As long as the Centers for Disease Control tells us that’s what we’re going to do, then we’re going to be consistent with that. So be patient, and still wear your mask, social distance and wash your hands.”
Listen to the KMAM-KMOE radio interview with Greg Weaver at http://www.bcmhospital.com/bcmh-news-regarding-covid-19/
Access the DHSS COVID-19 Public Dashboard online: at https://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/novel-coronavirus/data/public-health/
Lori King, FNP (pictured at right) reviews data with Bree Hardie, LPN as the next scheduled patient drives into the newly- completed High Street addition for a car-side appointment. For King, a family nurse practitioner seeing patients at High Street Family Care Clinic, the new addition has proven to be very convenient, especially as the clinics are seeing a recent increase in COVID-19 testing. The enclosed, temperature-controlled addition will be used for other patient testing and treatment purposes, as decided by the primary care provider. Also pictured: Bre Sargent, family nurse practitioner student.