Local hospital admissions for COVID-19 have risen, but hospital officials say the case numbers are not straining their resources.
The city of Joplin reported that 76 people were hospitalized Tuesday, up from 69 a day earlier. Of that number, 23 were Joplin patients; the remainder were regional. There were 24 from Jasper County and 15 from Newton County. Others were from outlying areas.
Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley said Monday at a City Hall briefing that city officials are closely watching the regional hospitalization numbers because of a concern about the institutions having the bed space and staff to care for larger numbers.
Freeman Health System had 47 COVID-19 patients Wednesday, 12 of those in its intensive care unit, a hospital spokesman said. Two of the patients were at Freeman Neosho Hospital and the rest at the Joplin hospital. That is the most COVID-19 inpatients Freeman has treated so far.
"We are expanding as needed. We don’t have staffing issues. We believe this is our highest number but we will do what is needed to take care of everyone," spokesman Lisa Olliges told the Globe in an email.
Mercy Hospital Joplin had 29 COVID-19-positive patients as of Wednesday morning, spokesman Jordan Larimore said.
"That is on the higher end of where we’ve been, but not our peak," Larimore said in an email. The peak was 30 patients in recent weeks.
Mercy has the needed staffing and bed capacity to care for the patient load, Larimore said, adding, "We’ve continued to ask the community to help us slow the spread by masking, staying distant, washing hands and getting flu shots so that we don’t get to a situation where resources are stretched or capacity is reduced."
Joplin Health Director Ryan Talken said, "It's been steadily increasing, not big spikes, but a steady increase in the numbers" of hospitalizations.
"People do need to understand there is a reason to pay attention to that number. We all have to protect the capacities" of the hospitals.
In addition to the precautions recommended by Mercy officials, Talken said residents should get flu shots, "not just to protect you from the flu but to protect others from the flu and the medical resources" that take care of the region's health needs.
Joplin's actual active COVID-19 case number dropped from 175 on Sunday to 130 on Tuesday as a number of people were released from isolation.
Earlier in the pandemic, there was a lag in time between the onset of infections, test result reporting, and the health departments being notified so they could isolate people and conduct contact tracing.
"The notifications now are pretty fast," Talken said. A new state reporting procedure that does not require manual input of numbers reported by the various testing labs has sped up the process.
Tony Moehr, director of the Jasper County Health Department, said that in midsummer there was so much lag time that a person was under isolation only a few days before they could be released. The rule being followed by the departments is that a person can be released from isolation 10 days after testing positive.
"Right now we have seen an increase in cases but we are getting the lab tests back so that they are in isolation longer," Moehr said. Active cases in the county had gone down to around 90 a few weeks ago but are back up now to 205 active cases.
Newton County as of Tuesday had 322 current active cases, according to information provided by Larry Bergner, the health director.
Some of the increase can be attributed to schools being back in session, the health directors have said. Other increases are the result of people not following the precautions.