SPRINGFIELD, Mo.- Due to the recent surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Springfield, leaders at CoxHealth are resuming weekly media briefings.

The briefings will be every Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

In this first briefing, CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards shared new hospitalization numbers in the Cox system; he says there are 127 COVID-positive patients. Of those, 20-25% are in the ICU, with an average of 21 patients in critical care. Edwards says four of those 127 patients are unvaccinated Cox employees.

Edwards says 65% of Cox employees have been vaccinated with 95% of physicians vaccinated. Edwards mentioned that the organization is working on a new way to encourage employee vaccination by hosting a lottery among the staff with winners announced each week.

Edwards told media that Missouri officials need to realize Springfield is a harbinger for the state. Edwards says he appreciates the work Governor Parson and the White House have done to help, but still encourages Parson to reconsider the door-to-door campaign because it will not be federal officials approaching homes, but instead local health workers.

Cox is seeing a rise in routine volumes on top of the COVID spike. Edwards says this is probably because patients withheld coming to the hospital during 2020. He encouraged people to look at other medical venues like urgent care or primary care doctors because wait times in the emergency room could be up to 24 hours.

In response to the cancellation of the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival, Edwards said he loves that event, but it was the right thing to do. He encouraged any large-scale event similar to reconsider.

When asked about re-instating a mask mandate, Edwards said, “I would describe our community as a tinder box, right now, very divided. What I would worry with a mask mandate is that we can create more division and it could slow down vaccinations because of that division.”

Over the weekend, Edwards tweeted out a plea for help for more staff. On Tuesday, he said the hospital has since received 111 calls from other healthcare workers wanting to help and 66 staff already on the way. Edwards says Cox is at capacity with ventilators and other medical equipment to help COVID patients.