Missouri sends ambulances, staff and other aid to Springfield as COVID wave worsens

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Missouri officials are sending ambulances, staff and other aid to Springfield and Greene County as southwest Missouri continues to weather an onslaught of COVID-19 cases driven by the aggressive delta variant, Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday.

But they escalated a request for an “alternate care site” to relieve strain on local hospitals to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We will continue to do all we can to support the Springfield area and surrounding communities as we experience this increase in COVID-19 spread,” Parson said in a news release.

Springfield and Greene County health and emergency management officials made the request on July 14 as the influx of COVID patients swamped local hospitals. Thirty-five percent of people in the county have been fully vaccinated, lower than the state’s 40%.

The local officials had to resubmit the request for the alternate care site on Monday. They want to convert a local hotel into a medical facility to treat patients in less severe condition, according to Parson’s news release, freeing up hospital beds for those who are more sick.

Aaron Schekorra, spokesman for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said officials there “hope to continue working with SEMA [the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency] and FEMA to bring this resource to southwest Missouri soon to provide much needed support for our healthcare workers.”

CoxHealth and Mercy hospitals in Springfield had 310 COVID inpatients on Thursday, according to their executives. Greene County officials said earlier this week the number of COVID cases in the county rose by 22% compared to the week before.

CoxHealth’s public relations department on Monday took the rare step of releasing photographs of overwhelmed staff inside one of the hospital’s COVID ICU units in the hopes of prompting the public to get vaccinated. They show health care workers wrapped in white suits, beds separated by makeshift dividers and a “do not resuscitate” sign on one bed.

Missouri officials are contracting with the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management to send “ambulance strike teams” in the form of 10 advanced life support ambulances, 20 medical personnel, two strike team leaders and one logistics specialist to Greene County for two weeks to transport COVID patients.

The state also is sending personnel and equipment to help local clinics set up a monoclonal antibodies treatment center, where COVID-positive patients at high risk severe disease or of being hospitalized can get infusions of proteins that help their bodies fight off the virus.

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