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COVID-19 surge in Joplin, Northwest Arkansas; Health Dept, CoxHealth weigh in

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JOPLIN, Mo. — In a press conference this morning, Springfield-Greene County Health Department Director Clay Goddard stressed the importance of staying vigilant in the fight against COVID-19.

“All we have to do is look at our neighbors in Northwest Arkansas,” Goddard said.

Northwest Arkansas sees the highest daily number of new cases in all of the states. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, Carroll county has 28 active COVID-19 cases. Benton County has 578, and Washington County has 808.

Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas sent KOLR 10 a statement, saying in part:

“As of Thursday, Mercy had 34 patients in our combined COVID-19 units. About half of those patients were requiring mechanical ventilation.”

This morning, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said the community should be paying attention to what’s happening in Jasper, Newton and McDonald county.

According to the Missouri COVID-19 Dashboard, McDonald county has seen a 142.31% 7-day increase in cases. Seven days ago, it had 26 cases. Now, it has 63. Jasper county has seen a 137.5 percent increase in cases. Seven days ago, it had 32 cases. Now, it has 76. Newton county has seen a 32.43 percent increase. A week ago, it had 37 cases. Now, it has 49.

“The risk coming that spring from those neighboring jurisdictions is real,” McClure said. “COVID-19 knows no geographic boundary.”

Goddard expressed his concerns about these numbers on a local scale.

“From a healthcare perspective, it could impact us because some patients could be transferred here for ICU beds,” Goddard said. “I don’t think that’s happened, but it’s always a possibility.”

If it were to happen, CoxHealth vice president of hospital operations Amanda Hedgpeth says she feels her team would be ready.

“CoxHealth is a community hospital that’s always open to referrals from other smaller community hospitals,” Hedgpeth said. “In a normal month, we actually take in about 400 patients from other hospitals for higher-level care, specialty care.”

Hedgpeth says CoxHealth gets patient referrals from all over the state of Missouri, Arkansas and some from Oklahoma. None are COVID-19 related. But it has a 51-bed ward ready should they need it. The hospital has stocked up on masks, shields, beds and ventilators.

“We feel like we are in a good position to be able to take care of additional patients if needed,” Hedgpeth said.

Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas explained its COVID-19 patient capacity in a statement, saying in part:

“Although an increase in cases took longer to happen than we had anticipated, Mercy is well prepared and currently keeping up with the surge. Mercy has a total of 60 beds in separate, designated units to care for COVID-19 patients. Mercy also can expand capacity by converting space on unfinished floors at Mercy Hospital.

Area health care organizations are working together very closely to share resources. There have been a few times over the past few weeks that Mercy has looked to other Northwest Arkansas hospitals to assist in caring for patients during the surge. We stay in close communication daily to ensure no organization is overly stressed.

One crucial consideration we aren’t often asked about is the specialized skills necessary to care for COVID-19 patients, who tend to be among the most critically ill patients in the hospital. With the recent surge in cases, Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas was able to ask for help from Mercy Hospitals in St. Louis and Joplin, which sent a group of nurses specializing in intensive care to help. We are thankful for the support and will respond in kind should other Mercy hospitals need our assistance.”

Northwest Health in Springdale, Arkansas also sent KOLR 10 a statement, saying in part:

“Our health system has an adequate supply of PPE and other equipment, such as ventilators, for the number of patients in our care. We have planned and prepared over the last several months for this public health emergency, and we continue to work closely with our sister hospitals in Northwest Health as well as other area providers to ensure that we can care for all of those who need care, whether they are impacted by COVID-19 or another medical issue. Additionally, we have the ability to add beds, as needed, depending on the needs of our community. The only patients we would transfer to other hospitals would be those requiring a higher level of acuity that is not available in this region.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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