- Title: Missouri hospital copes with COVID surge amid fears it could be worse than 2020
- Date: 22nd July 2021
- Summary: SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI, UNITED STATES (JULY 22, 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) ERIK FREDERICK, CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER AT MERCY HOSPITAL, SAYING WHAT SCARES HIM THE MOST ABOUT THE CURRENT SURGE: "What do I what do I fear? I fear we're not going to get our vaccine levels up. That we're still not making great progress there. This Delta variant is going to continue to circle. I think based on how contagious this thing is, how rapidly it moves to the community, now that we're hearing it's going to take 90 percent, that level of vaccination, to really pin this thing down. That's a huge leap. Down here in our community we're barely at 40 percent (vaccination rate). We were hoping to get to 70 and now we're at 90 (in an apparent reference to assessments of where vaccine rates need to be to tame the pandemic). So we can get there (to 90), no doubt about it. I mean, we've got the resources, we've got the supply. We've got everything we need to do it except for the will of the people. And that's what we need to say, is 'please come forward if you truly want your community to return to normal'."
- Embargoed: 5th August 2021 21:19
- Keywords: Chief Administrative Officer Covid-19 vaccine Delta variant Erik Frederick Mercy Hospital Missouri Springfield U.S. midwest covid cases coronavirus pandemic surge vaccine hesitancy
- Location: SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI + MISSION VIEJO, CALIFORNIA + BURBANK, CALIFORNIA + OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA + NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK + NEW HYDE PARK, NEW YORK + VALLEY STREAM, NEW YORK + BAY SHORE, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- City: SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI + MISSION VIEJO, CALIFORNIA + BURBANK, CALIFORNIA + OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA + NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK + NEW HYDE PARK, NEW YORK + VALLEY STREAM, NEW YORK + BAY SHORE, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Health/Medicine,United States
- Reuters ID: LVA00CEMXCGNB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: As the infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to sweep the United States, driving up case counts, administrators at one Missouri hospital are worried the current surge will ultimately be worse than even the COVID crisis it had to grapple with in 2020.
Mercy Hospital in Springfield, the third largest city in the state, told Reuters on Thursday (July 22) that it saw a "fast" escalation of cases in its out-patient COVID admissions starting around June 1. It said the hospital then saw the same number of COVID patients over the next 36 days as it had seen across 150 during a surge in the fall of 2020.
"And then we kept going so today we have a new high," the hospital's Chief Administrative Officer, Erik Frederick, told Reuters via Zoom. "It was pretty alarming how quickly (it) grew in such a short period of time," he said.
The numbers represent a five-fold increase in COVID-19 cases for Mercy Hospital, echoing the sudden surge of cases being reported in the United States and worldwide due to the highly-infectious Delta strain of the COVID-19 virus.
The seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. is up 53% over the previous week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Thursday. The Delta variant, which was first found in India, now comprises more than 80% of new cases nationwide and has been detected in more than 90 countries.
The uptick in U.S. cases is concentrated in regions of the country with lower vaccination rates. Missouri, Florida and Texas account for 40% of all new cases nationwide, according to the White House.
Frederick said about 90% of the hospital's new cases are the Delta variant and about 95% of the COVID patients are unvaccinated. The newer COVID patients are also "younger and sicker", he said, and include pregnant women.
"On average last year, we'd have probably about 25 to 30 percent of our COVID patients would be in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit)... We've had days in the last few weeks where 100% of our ICU patients were ventilated," he said.
By comparison, the five percent of the hospitals' COVID-19 patients who were vaccinated are generally not in the ICU, requiring only what Frederick calls "minimal support" before being sent home.
Some hospitals around the United States are reaching their capacity limits as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge, the CDC said. Frederick said Mercy Hospital is using about 35% of its bed capacity just for COVID-19 patients and that the hospital is stretching all of its oxygen and respiratory resources.
Then, too, there is the added grim dilemma of critically-ill younger patients, for whom little more can be done, continuing to occupy hospital beds because family members can't abide the idea of ending life-saving measures or moving the patient to palliative care when their loved one is still in their 20s, 30, 40s, or 50s.
The families are "not moving down that path now", Frederick said, adding that they are "just insisting" that the patient will get through the illness.
The new dynamic "bleeds" into other regional and smaller hospitals, he said, so that it's getting "harder and harder" to place all of the new COVID patients across the region into hospital beds.
Frederick is encouraged by more robust vaccination efforts over the last week or two across the traditionally conservative communities of his state, saying that last week they set a high mark for new vaccinations in Greene County where Springfield is located.
But he cautions that until the tide of the Delta surge can be turned communities with low vaccine rates need to be prepared for a very difficult road ahead.
"They need to brace themselves. They need to get ready to make sure their plan is more nimble than what they thought it was last year," he said.
Ultimately, the thing the New England transplant to the Midwest fears the most is that vaccine rates will not go up high enough to stop the pandemic. He said new assessments suggest that the national vaccine rate should reach close to 90% to help end the pandemic, but that the current vaccine rate in his community is only 40%.
"We've got the resources, we've got the supply. We've got everything we need to do it except for the will of the people," he said.
(Production: Mana Rabiee)
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