SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – As the Omicron variant causes a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, health officials in rural, southwest Missouri counties are also feeling the impact of the third wave.

Cox Hospital in Branson announced Friday it currently has double the number of COVID-19 patients than its excepted capacity.

By Friday afternoon, Cox Branson was treating 12 COVID-19 patients. When the unit first opened, it was slated to have just six.

“Well, the reason that we’re keeping them here in Branson is that Springfield is full. Mercy is full. Every place is full and we’re back where we started, where we’re everybody’s looking all over the country for beds,” says Adene Smith, Director of Nursing at Cox Hospital in Branson.

Smith says the COVID-19 unit in Branson has expanded now to 17, but she believes it will max out again in just a couple of weeks.

“Right now, we’re looking at which nurses we can pull from, which areas that maybe don’t work inside the hospital right now, maybe they work in a clinic that we might be able to pull to the bedside to help us out. We have people that are volunteering to be housekeepers to help us turn over beds if they need to,” Smith says.

Smith says while the hospital is full of patients, nurses are running on empty.

“That’s the part that gets me in the heart is to talk about them, because they really are the front line doing all the work and to ask people to do more with less is a really hard thing to do,” says Smith.

In Webster County, a community of fewer than 40,000 people, health officials say the community has recently been hit with the perfect storm.

The Webster County Health Unit says cases have been steadily rising since before the holidays, leading to an urgent demand for testing.

At a testing event on Monday, of the 120 people tested for COVID-19 in Marshfield, 40 people tested positive.

Health administrators also say the county’s positivity rate jumped to 30% this week.

“We are averaging about 35 cases a day. And you know, for someone living in Springfield, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you look at the size of Webster County, that’s a significant number of people who are getting sick,” says Scott Allen, Administrator of the Webster County Health Unit.

The Health Unit was forced to close additional testing events on Thursday and Friday due to winter weather.
Allen says canceling the clinic means roughly 150 people in the community will have to seek testing elsewhere or wait until next week.

A make-up event for free testing that was canceled this week will be held Wednesday, January 12th from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The location will be announced in the coming days.

The Webster County Health Unit assures residents there is COVID-19 testing available seven days a week in Webster County.

Every Monday and Friday, a free drive-thru testing site is held at the Marshfield Health Unit from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. No appointment is needed.

Due to demand, the Fordland Clinic has also expanded its testing from two to five days a week, by appointment only.

To see more testing opportunities and resources for COVID-19 in Webster County, visit WebsterCoHealth.com.