Springfield hospital to open third COVID ICU unit, urges public to get vaccinated

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Mercy Hospital in Springfield is planning to open a third COVID-19 ICU unit, its chief administrative officer said Wednesday, as the highly contagious delta variant is rampaging through the unvaccinated in southwestern Missouri.

Erik Frederick disclosed the development in a Twitter post, noting that the hospital’s staff is now treating 146 virus patients, up from 132 by this time last week and 120 the week before.

“We do not want to prepare a bed for you,” Frederick wrote. “We need the community vaccinated. Mask until we get there.”

More than half of the hospital’s COVID-19 patients are now from Greene County and under the age of 60, Frederick said.

Less than two weeks ago, the hospital said it was opening a sixth COVID-19 unit. It only needed five such units last year. Those units are separate from the ICU units dedicated to COVID patients.

Frederick’s tweet comes as the hospital has been slammed by a surge of virus infections. Earlier this month, the hospital ran out of ventilators, so Mercy hospitals in St. Louis and Arkansas sent their supplies.

Days after that, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department reported 17 deaths between June 21 and July 4. Health officials said none were fully vaccinated.

Missouri has the third-highest rate of new COVID-19 cases per capita, behind Arkansas and Florida, according to data compiled by The New York Times. The state also has among the lowest adult vaccination rates in the country.

The delta variant has now been found in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas.

Across Missouri, more than 549,000 residents to date have been infected by the virus, including 9,526 who have died. Within the last seven days, the state’s positive test rate was 14.2%

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