COVID-19 Town Hall: Rising hospitalizations in Boone County

3 weeks 5 days 1 hour ago Thursday, July 16 2020 Jul 16, 2020 Thursday, July 16, 2020 10:28:00 PM CDT July 16, 2020 in News
By: Emily Spain, KOMU 8 Anchor
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COLUMBIA - Following the rise of active COVID-19 cases in Boone County, more people are also ending up in the hospital. 

KOMU 8's Emily Spain talked with MU Health Care Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Wakefield about the rise in hospitalizations.

He said after the increase in cases, they anticipated to see an uptick in COVID-19 admissions. He said it followed the pattern of about a 2-week lag time after cases jumped. 

He said MU Health Care currently has 21 patients admitted with COVID-19. 

Dr. Wakefield talked about how they are responding to the increase in COVID-19 patients and what they've learned about the virus since the pandemic began. Check out his answers below.

Q: How is MU Health Care handling the increase in COVID-19 patients? 

"So, in March we developed a tiered response and contingency plan that anticipated a large number of potential admissions. And, we've modified that plan as we've learned new things. But, we are capable of taking care of patients that we have admitted at this point." 

Q: Is there a specific number of patients where MU Health Care reaches a breaking point or capacity?

"Well, I think we've always been concerned. And, you know, there's a lot of apprehension in the community about do we have enough capacity to take care of sick patients on a daily basis. MU Health Care will take care of almost 100 patients in intensive care unit. So, we have the capacity. Now, potentially if increased volume of patients with COVID-19 were admitted to the hospital, we might have to adapt to that by decreasing other interventions that might need an intensive care unit."

Q: What has MU Health Care learned about COVID-19 since the pandemic started several months ago?

"We call it a novel coronavirus for a reason, it's new. And, almost everything we know is in its infancy.

One of the things that we've learned is that if you test too soon, if a patient gets tested too soon after their exposure, they may have a false negative test meaning the virus hasn't developed enough RNA to be detected by the test. And so, really the ideal time to test after exposure appears to be around seven days. Now, we're continuously learning and refining this because there's new information becoming available. But, one of the things that we're encouraging people to do is don't get tested too early. 

What we've learned most practically is how we can manage the flow of patients and maintain safety."

Dr. Wakefield also talked about the increased demand for testing. He said in response MU Health Care opened up a second drive-thru location to cut down on wait times. 

He said more people are getting tested for a couple of reasons. He said patients are required to get a COVID-19 test before elective procedures to protect staff members. He said those account for about 500 tests per week.

Also, Dr. Wakefield said as more people get infected, more people are exposed and are motivated to get tested.

Dr. Wakefield also addressed the idea of herd immunity. He said fewer and fewer people are talking about that becoming a reality. He said what doctors know about other coronaviruses is that herd immunity does not develop and people can get reinfected. They're still learning whether that is also the case with COVID-19.

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