'Not out of the woods yet'

One in three patients is being treated for COVID-19; emergency room numbers are up and the age of those testing positive is younger

Lake Sun staff

Lake Regional Health Systems has not only seen a spike in COVID hospitalizations but the age group of active cases shows more younger people are now prone to require more intense care.

One in three patients hospitalized at Lake Regional are being treated for COVID with about one-third of those are requiring assistance to breathe.

In the latest in a series of letters to the community, Lake Regional CEO Dane Henry, FACHE, said, “we’re not out of the woods yet. Today, Lake Regional hit a milestone I’d hoped we never see again. Our COVID-positive in patient census has climbed to 24, including seven patients on ventilators. Please let that sink in … among our inpatient census, one in three patients is COVID-positive.”

The lake area is following the trend being seen across central and southwestern Missouri. Cases are going up, hospitalizations are on the rise and patients are younger. The Missouri Hospital Association is reporting Missouri has led the nation in both new COVID cases and those believed to be the Delta variant the past two weeks.

In the letter, Henry said the numbers began heading in the wrong direction about a week after Memorial Day. Between June 9 and June 25, Lake Regional experienced seven COVD-related deaths as the positive inpatient census gradually climbed to double-digits.

“And although experience tells us our Emergency Department will be busy during the summer months, the month has far exceeded expectations. Since June 1, we have treated 3,414 emergency patients, with one in 10 visits being COVID-related. For comparison, we treated 2,797 emergency patients during June 2019,” Henry said. “These trends are worrisome, so is this fact: COVID patients hospitalized this month are younger than those affected during previous spikes. We are seeing more people in their 20s to 50s. This is not a subjective opinion. These are simple facts that we are confronting here and now.”

Henry said Lake Regional is experiencing what their regional neighbors in southwest Missouri are facing, indicating the same trends. Health leaders there believe the Delta variant, known to spread quickly, may be responsible for many of the new cases.

According to the Springfield News Leader, CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards said those affected at Cox Hospital are younger and many were previously healthy with no underlying conditions. Cox Health reported 105 COVID-positive inpatients on June 25, he said.

“The most discouraging part about all of this is: It’s preventable. COVID-19 vaccines are free, safe and readily available, Most importantly, they are the best protection against hospitalization and death,” according to Henry.

Henry cited a report released this week from data reviewed by the Associated Press from May 2021. The AP found breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for only 1.1% of COVID-19 hospitalizations nationwide. Further only 0.8% of COVID-19 deaths were fully vaccinated people.

“If you’ve already been vaccinated, thank you for doing your part. Now, please encourage your neighbors and friends to schedule appointments. For the safety of your family and our dedicated medical staff, we hope you will do what it takes to protect our community.”

Free vaccinations are available through Lake Regional’s seven primary care locations, local health departments, Central Ozark Medical Center and area retail pharmacies.

The most recent data shows 70% percent of Missouri’s senior population have been vaccinated. Younger age groups lagging behind.

Lake area vaccination rates

How many people in the lake area have been vaccinated?

Camden County

• 36% of people in Camden County have received at least one dose of the vaccine for a total of 16,219

• 33% of the people in Camden County are fully vaccinated, for a total of 14,934

Miller County

• 24% of the people in Miller County have received at least one dose of the vaccine for a total of 6,076

• 21.6% of the people in Miller County are fully vaccinated, for a total of 5,412

Morgan County

• 29.9% of the people in Morgan County have received at least one dose of the vaccine for a total of 6,037

• 27% of the people in Morgan County are fully vaccinated for a total of 5,469

How many people in Missouri have been vaccinated so far?

• 43% of the people in Missouri have received at least one for of the vaccine, for a total of 2,743,765 people

• 39% of the people in Missouri are fully vaccinated, for a total of 2,378,399

Vax Facts

How to get a vaccine

Anyone age 12 and older is now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Missouri, including non-residents. There is no cost to any patient for the vaccine or office visit.

See the schedule and which vaccines are available at each clinic at lakeregional.com/vaccine and other locations throughout the lake area.

Vax Facts provided by Lake Regional:

· The Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are nearly 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

· Most side effects are mild, such as a sore arm or tiredness. Some people have no side effects at all. Serious allergic reactions or blood clots are extremely rare.

· While the COVID-19 vaccines are new, scientists have been working with the technology for mRNA and viral vector vaccines for more than 20 years.

· Diverse groups of people took part in the vaccine studies.

· By far, most doctors who have been offered the vaccines have taken them. This is true nationwide, as well as at Lake Regional.

If you have questions about the vaccine’s efficacy or safety, visit lakeregional.com/vaccine.