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Mid-Missouri hospitals prepare for spike in COVID-19 patients after reopening


With the state reopening in less than a week, hospitals in mid-Missouri are preparing for a possible spike in COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Mike Parson has said a pillar in the recovery plan is monitoring and expanding hospital capacity. More elective surgeries will be available starting Monday.

Dave Dillon, the vice president of public and media relations at the Missouri Hospital Association, said that hospitals are prepared to return to limited operations if necessary.

"If we found that we had not effectively flattened the curve or if the curve starts to bend back up, then in fact we would see at a state level or where those hotspots were, them beginning to take the more draconian measures of isolation and distancing," Dillon said.

Dillon also said that an increase in positive cases could be due to both the state reopening and lessened social distancing or an expansion of testing.

Boone Hospital Center and MU Health Care in Columbia are both preparing for a possible uptick in patients.

"We are uncertain of whether there is going to be a surge or not related to relief and increased social activity of people as businesses start opening up," Dr. Mark Wakefield with University of Missouri Health care said in an ABC 17 News interview Tuesday. "I think we'll be prepared and anticipate an increased number of patients that we have to take care of."

Eric Maze, a spokesman with MU Health Care, said the system continues to update its response plan. When asked if the system is expanding testing, Maze said MU Health continues to follow testing criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"If the criteria for testing expands or we experience an increase in patients using our drive-thru testing location, we have the capability and flexibility to extend hours of operation," Maze said.

Boone Hospital Center will continue to follow its surge plan in case of a spike in cases as well. Dr. Robin Blount, the chief medical officer of the hospital, said that even though they are resuming some elective procedures, they are taking it in baby steps.

"We're doing it in a very step-wise fashion," Blount said. "We're not just opening the door and saying we're running 100%. we're really probably step-wise going at about 25% in addition to what we've been taking care of all along."

Blount said the hospital is also ready to roll back elective procedures if there is a surge in COVID-19 patients. The hospital is also testing some patients getting elective procedures before their operations if the surgeries are at high risk of spreading the virus.

A widely-used model projecting the COVID-19 outbreak, done by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, states that Missouri can relax its social distancing after June 17 if there are containment strategies in place that include testing, contact tracing, isolation and limiting gathering size. It does not show predictions of what could happen if the state reopens at an earlier date.

Missouri health officials reported 1,171 cases of COVID-19 on Monday afternoon, with 288 deaths. New cases have leveled off or declined in many areas but hot spots remain, including Saline and Moniteau counties in Mid-Missouri.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Molly Stawinoga

Molly Stawinoga is ABC 17’s weekday morning anchor and a reporter at ABC 17 News. Molly joined the news team in 2017 while studying political science, journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is originally from DeKalb, Illinois.


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