PLATTSBURGH – The post-holiday COVID-19 surge puts not only residents in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties at risk, but also the University of Vermont Health Network hospitals serving them.
Hospital officials and officials from Tri-County health departments shared their concerns about the potential toll on residents and the health care infrastructure during a Friday afternoon Zoom panel.
“As you heard from the Health Departments, community prevalence is increasing,” Dr. Lisa Mark, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer for Alice Hyde Medical Center and Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, said.
“We're, in particular, seeing a spike after the holidays, and it's reflective of the community and gathering and we all have pandemic fatigue and it's difficult.”
Mark pleads with the community to remain within their bubbles, wear faces masks, don't have a party, and don't congregate.
“It's more important now than ever,” she said.
“We have over 20 cases of COVID in our hospital right now. That's certainly more than we ever had in early 2020 when we are at our peak of COVID then.
“And so that's really what I want to stress to the community is that it's worse now than it was then.
“Now is the time when we really have to make an effort to follow the guidance, wear masks, and stay at home.”
Alice Hyde Medical Center just discharged its last COVID patient admitted to the facility.
“So we are at zero, which is a first for us since we had our outbreak in our nursing home back in October,” Tammy Reynolds, Associate Vice President of Nursing Operations, said.
“So, our high was nine, and our low today is zero. That's good. Unfortunately, I'm hoping this is not the calm before the storm though because we have seen an increase in our community cases.”
Alice Hyde has seen an increase in foot traffic.
“COVID patients coming into our Emergency Room, not necessarily needing admission, but needing some medications and treatments that we can give as an outpatient and then discharge them home,” Reynolds said.
“I'm hopeful we are on an upswing here.”
Patients are encouraged to seek medical care if they need it.
“I think some people get afraid to come to the hospital because there is COVID in the hospital but if you are sick, we encourage you to come to the hospital,” Reynolds said.
“If you need to be seen, we are here, and we do a very good job at the hospital, both in Plattsburgh and in Malone, of cleaning our facilities. So, we encourage people to come here if you are ill, and you need treatment. We are always here 24 hours a day. We have capacity, and we will continue to work together to provide the community with healthcare.”
Elizabethtown Community Hospital is also seeing a significant increase in demand for services.
“Right now at the hospital starting the day today, we have seven COVID-positive patients,” Dr. David Claus, Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director for Emergency Medicine, said.
“That's a third of our whole census. It is becoming increasingly stressful in that we frequently have staff members who have to obey quarantine orders and regulations and staffing for increased censuses is become increasingly difficult.”
With the significant increase in incidence that we are seeing as a result of the post-holiday spike, many people throughout this pandemic have used wartime analogies.”
At January's end, the United States is on track to have lost more people in one year of the COVID-10 Pandemic than in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War combined.
“This is a war,” Claus said.
“And the way we can get out of this, good news is, is known. We know that last spring when we started to have an increase in incidence that when we really buckled down and minimized contact with others, wore masks, performed good hand washing, that it actually drove things down and we did well through the summer.”
Claus reiterated this current spike is unsustainable for the healthcare system.
“In the last 30 days in Northeastern New York, the daily number of new cases per population has increased fourfold,” he said.
“The demand for hospital services continues to go up. In Elizabethtown, as a critical access hospital for critically ill patients and for specialty services, we depend on our colleagues at CVPH. They are overwhelmed. We're becoming overwhelmed. “The way out of this is not medical treatment. We can't treat our way out of this pandemic. We have to prevent our way out of this pandemic with simple measures that we know.”
Claus noted hospitals will never know what lives are saved through isolating, avoiding gatherings, socially distancing, masking, washing hands, and obeying guidelines.
“So, there is a hardship here, but I really would urge people to think of this as a wartime situation where we got to get through this,” he said.
“We also are not going to be able to vaccinate our way out of this quickly enough to avoid significant tragedy.
“We've got to adhere to basic public health measures here, and everyone needs to take responsibility to try and drive these numbers down.”
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