COVID-19 numbers are on the rise again in Missouri and local health care professionals have been taking notice.
“There certainly has been a spike in the month of July as far as number of patients admitted and number of people testing positive in the community,” said Dr. Dan Woolery, Pulmonary and Critical care specialist at Bothwell Regional Health Center. “We’re at the highest numbers in the month of July as we have been since January.”
While COVID numbers resurge, vaccination percentages are low and mask usage has lessened.
“People are letting their guard down, the mask mandate is being lifted,” said Woolery. “If you read the CDC guidelines, they suggest that only vaccinated people were safe to return to their normal activities, but obviously most people meant that to be everyone regardless of vaccination status. I think in the areas where we have the lowest vaccinated percentage of the population we are seeing outbreaks, again.”
Tamera Jackson is the Director of Critical Services at Bothwell Regional Health Center and said the hospital has been taking in COVID-positive patients from around the state.
“We have actually been asked to take some patients to our hospital because they did not have critical care beds for their patients there,” Jackson said. “We have taken patients from Branson, from Springfield, from Mount Vernon, from Lebanon, from down at the lake. We have had a spike. In the last few weeks, we have had anywhere from 10 to 20 COVID patients at any one time. Our CCU has had up to seven patients on ventilators, all COVID positive.”
As of Thursday, Bothwell is down to two patients on ventilators. The hospital has erected barriers to keep COVID patients segregated and keep other patients safe. Jackson admits these contagious patients require much more care.
“They take a lot of resources for the hospital; they take a lot of nursing care, all the personal protection equipment,” notes Jackson. “It takes a greater amount of time to care for those patients. They have lots of IV medications and drips that have to be titrated.”
“When we have to spend our time taking care of these COVID patients it affects what could be done on every other patient that arrives in the hospital,” Woolery said. “The best way to assure that everyone is getting the highest level of care is making responsible choices in preventing whatever we can with COVID, and I think vaccination is certainly the No. 1 priority.”
Woolery is a firm believer in the currently available vaccinations and relies on masks at his practice.
“Even with a simple cloth mask, there is no risk involved with wearing that through the day,” Woolery said. “I've worn one every second that I've been around patients for the past year and a half. It doesn't hurt anyone’s health and it's not dangerous. And certainly, it's helpful in preventing the spread of any communicable disease.”
Jackson and Woolery are watching for newly emerging strains of COVID, or variants, to be circulating this year.
“Nobody knows the way it's going to go, if I told you I knew what was going to happen in two weeks, I would be lying to you,” Woolery admitted, “but I am concerned about the continued rise in cases in combination with the continued lack of vaccinations and lack of precautions in the community. As well as the upcoming Missouri State Fair, which is going to bring a lot of people to town. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Delta variant is present here. We’ve known for a fact that it has been in the Springfield area and Branson. Those tests get sent to the State to weed out positives of COVID versus a Delta variant, so it is absolutely here, no doubt about it.”