An about face Thursday from local health and emergency management officials, who have withdrawn their request to the state for an alternative care site in Greene County.
Governor Mike Parson’s office issued a news release late Thursday afternoon that says “while the state was working with local and federal partners to establish the site, as early as next week, local health and emergency management leaders and Springfield hospitals believe current state efforts to boost health care capabilities are sufficient to meet existing needs.
The release also states that while COVID-19 cases remain high, in the last week, they’ve dropped by 24% in Greene County.
About an hour after the news release from the Governor’s office, Springfield-Greene County Health Director Katie Towns released a statement painting a different picture than the headlines offered by Parson’s office, saying the withdraw has nothing to do with falling cases or hospitalizations. In fact, the more than 260 people being treated for the virus in Greene County on Thursday marks the second highest single day total yet.
Here’s the full release from Governor Parson’s office:
JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – The Springfield-Greene County Health Department and the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management today withdrew their request to the state of Missouri for an Alternate Care Site. While the state was working with local and federal partners to establish the site – as early as next week – local health and emergency management officials and Springfield hospitals believe current state efforts to boost health care capabilities are sufficient to meet existing needs.
“We appreciate the tremendous work our state health and emergency management teams have been doing. They are working closely with our Springfield-Greene County partners to meet critical health care needs,” Governor Parson said. “The Delta variant remains a very serious concern, and our response efforts continue across Missouri. The rapid setup of a state-operated infusion center and deployment of ambulance strike teams are relieving the strain on our health care system. We applaud these public servants for their tireless efforts and remind everyone to take COVID-19 seriously. Vaccinations are free, readily available, and the best way to combat this deadly disease.”
COVID-19 statistics released today by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) show that while cases remain high, in the last seven days the number of new COVID-19 cases in Greene County has dropped by 24 percent compared to the previous seven days. There have been similar new case reductions in other parts of southwest Missouri region, but statewide COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Also, since July 19 when the request for an Alternate Care Site was made, the state has provided significant resources to relieve the strain on the health care system, including establishing a Monoclonal Antibody Infusion Center in Springfield and utilizing 10 life support ambulance strike teams to reduce the number of COVID-19 patients requiring care in area hospitals.
- Through Wednesday, July 28, the ambulance strike teams had transported 87 COVID-19 patients to hospitals outside the Springfield area to reduce hospital censuses in the region. Those transports covered almost 19,000 miles and included some roundtrips of seven to nine hours or more. SEMA arranged for the ambulance strike teams to support the area through an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request, which was fulfilled by the State of Arkansas Division of Emergency Management.
- The infusion center is being supported by the Missouri Disaster Medical Assistance Team (MO DMAT-1) and has served a total of 88 patients since it opened July 23, including 29 on Wednesday July 28, who previously would have required treatment in a hospital setting. It has served patients from around southwest Missouri, including Joplin, Branson, and Bolivar. Monoclonal antibodies are proteins that help the body fight off COVID-19 and reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization to high-risk patients.
Springfield hospital leaders called the strike teams “a life-line for us” and the infusion center “hugely helpful” because it freed up about 10 beds a day for one hospital.
The State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) will continue to closely coordinate its efforts to fight COVID-19 with local health and emergency management officials in Greene County. This collaboration has helped provide a model to utilize as other areas of the state face challenges from the Delta variant.
“The work that our state team members have done – from site assessments in Springfield, planning efforts, contracting and logistical considerations – has been tremendously important in continuing to strengthen our ability to respond to COVID-19 or any other risks to the safety and wellbeing of our state,” SEMA Director Jim Remillard said.
“This has been a tremendous team effort in every sense of the term,” DHSS Acting Director Robert Knodell said. “Public servants at DHSS and SEMA who have been working almost nonstop to respond to COVID-19 since March 2020 have once again demonstrated their skill and commitment to fighting this highly adaptable disease. They’ve done a great job collaborating with their Springfield-Greene County counterparts to respond to critical health needs in an expedited and efficient manner.”
A Statement from Springfield-Greene County Health Director Katie Towns
Our hospital systems have endured a very difficult few weeks following the July 14 request by the Springfield-Greene County Health Department for an alternate care site. While waiting for approval and assistance from the state, our healthcare partners moved forward with addressing the very immediate need by building their own capacity through hiring additional staff and repurposing existing spaces. Because this additional capacity allows us to address our current surge, and knowing that an alternate care site was at least another week away from being operational, there is no longer an immediate need for an alternate care site.
This decision was not made in response to falling cases or hospitalizations. In fact, on Thursday alone 267 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, which is the second highest number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in a single day to date. We have sadly lost 32 lives during the month of July alone.
We hope that other communities and the state have learned just how quickly this Delta variant spreads and how quickly our healthcare systems can be overwhelmed. We are grateful for the resilience and swift action of our overwhelmed healthcare partners.
We are grateful to the state for helping us to facilitate a monoclonal antibody infusion center and ambulance strike team in a timely manner which have created additional capacity in our community.
We continue to focus our efforts on getting our vaccination rates up, which is our best defense against the virus.