Missouri to send more personnel, equipment to Springfield area as COVID-19 spikes

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:29 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 10:43 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri state leaders will send additional personnel and equipment to Springfield and Greene County starting Friday to assist in southwest Missouri’s fight against COVID-19.

Gov. Mike Parson announced the new resources Thursday in a news release, which his office says comes in an effort to support local health care systems after requests from Springfield-area health leaders.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have worked with our local partners to provide support and resources as quickly as logistically possible, and that has not changed,” Governor Parson said. “We are thankful for these medical professionals and the assistance they will provide in Southwest Missouri. We will continue to do all we can to support the Springfield area and surrounding communities as we experience this increase in COVID-19 spread.”

The decision comes nearly two weeks after Springfield hospitals submitted a request to Missouri health and emergency leaders for a COVID-19 alternative care site to aid Springfield hospitals with their growing COVID-19 units.

The state will provide new resources, such as ambulance strike teams and monoclonal antibody infusion facility.

Immunologist Dr. Minh-Thu Le says she’s concerned if cases continue to rise, another variant can form in the future.

”If we keep letting people get infected, and these are unvaccinated people, every time it infects somebody that’s unvaccinated they can form a mutation,” Dr. Le says. “That’s where the mutations are coming from.”

Cox Hospital’s internal medicine physician, Dr. Nana Gaisie, says the hospital is seeing some unvaccinated patients get the virus a second time.

“Patients who had COVID last year are getting re-infected this year and some of them are getting admitted into the hospital,” Dr. Gaisie says.

That is concerning for Dr. Gaisie because patients are getting seriously sick.

“Severe lung disease, lung fibrosis and most of these patients are having to be on home oxygen at the time of discharge,” Dr. Gaisie says.

Starting Friday, ambulance strike teams are expected to arrive in the Springfield area and be available to assist local hospitals. The teams will consist of 10 advanced life support ambulances, 20 medical personnel, two strike team leaders, and one logistics specialist. They will support transports of COVID-19 patients.

Additionally, the Missouri Disaster Medical Assistance Team is now providing equipment and personnel, working with Jordan Valley Health Center and other health care facilities in the area to support a Monoclonal Antibody Centralized Infusion Center. The center is expected to begin receiving patients for therapy treatments on Friday, July 23.

Monoclonal antibodies are proteins that can help your body fight off COVID-19 and reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization – if administered to high-risk patients soon after diagnosis.

As an immunologist, Dr. Le works with high-risk patients every day. Dr. Le says she’s worried what could happen to them if they got sick.

“They don’t have immune systems that can fight any virus or bacteria, let alone one like COVID-19,” Dr. Le says. “These are real people, real families and it could be yours. This is how severe the variant is. It’s 1000 times more virus in your body when you get it. It’s 200% more infectious and it’s easier to spread.”

Just three days ago, Greene County submitted a request to Missouri SEMA for a stand-alone Alternative Care Site. SEMA has escalated the request to FEMA, according to Gov. Parson’s Office.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department shared the following statement on the new resources:

“We are pleased at the commitment of part of the aid that the Health Department, Office of Emergency Management, CoxHealth, Mercy and Jordan Valley Community Center requested last week. We are also glad to see progress on the request for the Alternative Care Site. This support will help save lives and ease the strain that the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations is putting on our health care workers.”

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