SWEETWATER COUNTY — In spite of the overload many Wyoming hospitals and regional high-level trauma care centers are experiencing, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County continues to maintain a low level of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
On Wednesday, there were no COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Sweetwater Memorial. Since March, the hospital has cared for a total of 17 patients, including COVID-19 positive mothers in the Obstetrics Department. Of those, three is the highest number of COVID-19 positive patients MHSC has cared for in its intensive care unit at one time.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases countywide is a different story.
“We are concerned by the increase in the numbers all around us and within our community,” said MHSC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Melinda Poyer. “Patients with COVID-19 are requiring admission to Wyoming hospitals at a much higher rate across the state. Combine that with Utah’s larger, Level 1 trauma care hospitals reporting patient capacity, and the situation is very, very worrisome.”
“We continue to be able to evaluate and treat patients in our hospital and continue to perform elective procedures,” Poyer said. “All of our clinics are open and accepting patients. To continue to be able to operate normally, we continue to request mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing.”
Healthcare professionals statewide and in Utah are pleading with their communities to take precautions.
- Utah Hospital Association President Greg Bell told Utah media outlets that some hospitals in his state may soon have to ration care as the number of positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise. That means doctors would be forced to decide whether a patient could be transferred into one of Utah’s large higher-level medical centers, as well as which patients would be allowed to remain in ICU units that reach capacity.
- Dr. Edward Kimball, who works in critical care at University of Utah Health, told regional healthcare affiliates during today’s weekly Zoom meeting that U of U is open for transfers. However, it is an hour-by-hour situation. A team of healthcare workers is involved in approving and accepting any new patient transfer request to U of U Health.
- St. John’s Health CEO Dr. John Beaupre in Jackson earlier this month said “The only way out of this dire situation is for the entire community to make a commitment today to reverse the dangerous trend that threatens to bring our first responder and community healthcare system to its knees.”
- Natrona County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell said last week during a press briefing he believes the situation will get much worse before it gets better. Bed capacity concerns led Wyoming Medical Center to implement its “Code Orange Incident Command” protocols.
- To help ensure something similar doesn’t happen in Sweetwater County, the county’s Public Health Officer Dr. Jean Stachon last week pleaded with residents to follow recommendations of wearing a mask, maintaining a social distance and washing their hands. “It doesn’t take much for things to go south,” she said.
7.4 Percent of People Test Positive for COVID-19
Sweetwater County’s number of positive cases have continued to climb during the past three weeks.
On Tuesday, the previous 14 days of specimen collection show 7.4 percent of people tested at MHSC were positive for COVID-19. That number is well above totals of less than 2 percent the hospital maintained through September, landing at 1.6 percent on Oct. 1.
The recent seven-day rolling totals are even higher, with about 9% of the those tested at MHSC confirmed positive for COVID-19.
While on the rise, Sweetwater County continues to maintain a lower level of positive COVID-19 cases when compared with the rest of Wyoming.
“As the numbers statewide are going up, we’re like this little oasis,” Stachon told Sweetwater Memorial’s Incident Command team Tuesday morning. “Our numbers look better than most Wyoming counties. However, we’re struggling to keep that record.”
Stachon said it’s important for county residents to not let their guard down. Businesses, schools, healthcare agencies and industry all are doing their part. Employees are wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
“But when they leave work, the masks come off,” she said. “Residents should continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing when going shopping or out to an event. Continue to take precautions when people from outside of your household visit, even if they are family. Take precautions around everyone, especially those that do not live in your household.”
Poyer agreed, saying health precautions need to be upheld in our social lives.
“As a community we are doing very well in our work environments with masks, social distancing and washing hands. We need the same type of vigilance in our social lives. Then we can keep our community open and functional,” Poyer said.
Stachon said the increase in the number of positive cases recorded in Green River is a concern. Wastewater sewage monitoring shows a significant increase in the presence of COVID-19 in that community.