SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Concern for public health capabilities is growing as COVID-19 cases continue to rise around Springfield, as well as areas around Joplin and Northern Arkansas. 

CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards says the cases we are seeing now help indicate hospital capacity in weeks to come.

“We knew hospitalizations will probably trial by two weeks, and deaths will trail by four weeks,” said Edwards.

As the hospitals prepare, they don’t just have Greene County to worry about.

“We saw 11 transfers coming into our hospital from outside of Springfield-Greene County, which really shows prevalence is rising,” said Edwards. “Two-thirds of our patients come from outside of Springfield. So if our county does a good job, but other counties don’t, that still could mean that we’ll be overwhelmed and we may not be able to take care of patients as much as we’d like to.”

“Currently about half of the patients we have come from Greene County the rest come from surrounding counties, so to me I would say it is equal,” said Erik Frederick, the chief administrative officer at Mercy.

However, the Springfield-Greene County online COVID-19 dashboard does give some insight on what to expect if a big spike were to hit the Springfield metro area. 

Fredrick says Mercy has about 230 negative pressure rooms and 75 ventilators in Springfield and is prepared to pull more resources if needed.

While the local hospital capability score is currently an 8 out of 10, the regional score has already dropped to 1.0 as hospitals to our southwest have nearly reached capacity. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department reports three patients from Joplin area hospitals have been brought to Springfield for care. 

Tie those numbers in with local health department capabilities and testing capability, and you can see how a spike in cases could lead to public health system being overwhelmed when it comes to patient care, as well as investigating and isolating cases and their contacts.

The chart below demonstrates that a rapid increase in cases across the region led to a loss in public health capability (represented on the Recovery Dashboard). 

A memo released by the Springfield-Greene County Health Department on Tuesday says “Once the rural public health system was overwhelmed, the spread of COVID-19 became even more widespread.”