Local hospitals disband COVID units as new cases remain low

·2 min read

Jun. 25—Both local hospitals say they have disbanded their dedicated COVID-19 units as the number of new cases remains steadily low throughout Howard County.

Margaret Johnson, president of Ascension St. Vincent Kokomo, said the hospital no longer has a unit, or a steady influx of COVID patients.

Community Howard Regional Health said it closed its dedicated unit after the number of hospitalized COVID-positive patients significantly decreased in the first quarter of the year.

Kris Kirschner, director of corporate communications for Community Health Network, said the number of COVID-positive patients fluctuates from day to day at the hospital but has ranged from no patients to low, single digits for the past several months.

"We have no doubt that the COVID vaccines are providing protection from the virus, and we continue to urge the public to seek out any of the three vaccines, which are readily available," she said in an email.

On Friday, 28,754 people in Howard County had received their second shot of the vaccine and were fully inoculated. The seven-day average of people receiving a shot sat at 105 as of Wednesday, which is the most recent data provided by the state.

The county hit its vaccination peak in late April, when the seven-day average of people getting shots was 1,587.

In the last month, the county's COVID positivity rate for unique individuals sat at 12.9%, with 252 new cases reported since May 25. One death also occurred in the county during that time.

Kirschner said that at Community Howard, services have returned to normal operations, while some enhanced safety requirements remain in place, such as wearing a mask within all facilities.

She said now that the hospital is operating as usual, people should schedule visits they may have postponed due to the pandemic.

"It is very important for patients who have put off doctor visits, regular screenings such as mammograms, or yearly well visits to seek out care and to not delay in taking these important steps to protect their health," Kirschner said.

However, even though operations are back to normal, the hospital said it's experiencing an employee shortage caused, in part, by the pandemic. Kirschner said they are working to boost its workforce and are moving toward implementing a $15 minimum wage.

"Employee shortages within health care are a longstanding problem," she said. "Like many hospitals, Community Howard has experienced a demand for staff during the past year and continues to take steps to retain and attract the highest quality of caregivers."

St. Vincent Kokomo said it is not experiencing a worker shortage.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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