COVID-19 resurgence with a new variant virus is pushing area hospital facilities to maximum lengths as medical staff grow weary in year two of a pandemic that shows no signs of disappearing soon.
Stone County Medical Center Administrator Jody Smotherman said daily census counts and emergency room visits are at their highest rate in a “long time” and reflect numbers more typical of the winter season when influenza symptoms are more common. And while there are no plans for long-term care for COVID patients at SCMC, the White River Medical System’s flagship hospital at Batesville is near capacity with between 30 and 40 patients in its COVID unit.
“We’re stretched pretty thin. There’s no doubt about that,” Smotherman said. “And, unfortunately, we’re in a situation where so many of us have been isolated for so long our immunities are down and people are sicker than they would normally be this time of year. Their symptoms are heightened because we’re running on low immunity.”
But two of the biggest concerns about the latest COVID variant wave, Smotherman said, are the demographic shift health care professionals are seeing in COVID patients and the rate at which is spreads.
“In the alpha wave a year ago, we were seeing older people with pre-existing conditions and the symptoms may not have been that severe, but now, we’re looking at a younger population altogether, that can be severely affected by this, and with no pre-existing conditions,” he said.
“The virus has clearly mutated, it’s more aggressive, easier to get and we’re reading that it can be 64 percent more contagious than the alpha. And it’s safe to say that the vast majority of our patients are those who are un-vaccinated.”
Read the complete story in the Aug. 4 issue.