COVID spike burdens local healthcare system, officials lay out contingency plan
JACKSON, Tenn. — Coronavirus cases continue to climb in West Tennessee.
“This is really, really serious,” said Amy Garner, chief compliance and communication officer for West Tennessee Healthcare.
In the last month, the number of COVID-positive patients at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital has doubled, with 102 COVID-positive patients hospitalized on Thursday.
“When you’ve got 102 COVID patients, plus another 450 sick patients that are here for other reasons, you can imagine how crazy it is around here on the nursing floors,” Garner said.
This leaves just under 100 hospital beds available at the hospital. Garner says they’re not too worried about capacity right now. Their contingency plan is to use North Hospital for non-COVID patients.
“So we have all of those emergency plans in place, but it’s going to be staffing that becomes the real critical piece in that puzzle,” Garner said.
Something important to note: most of the patients at Jackson General aren’t from Madison County. They’re from all over the region. Garner says it’s important to look at the region as a whole, instead of a county-by-county basis.
Vanderbilt University just released a study saying counties that have masking requirements have seen half the amount of hospitalizations as counties without one.
Currently, only three counties in West Tennessee have a mask mandate.
“Wearing a mask may not be a guarantee, but it decreases the viral load that you are exposed to,” Garner said. “And when you decrease that viral load, you may not get as sick. Then you may do better in the hospital setting than if you had been exposed to a large viral load.”
And the death toll keeps climbing. According to data from the Tennessee Department of Health, more than 500 West Tennesseans outside of Shelby County have died due to COVID-19 complications, and Garner says that number will continue to rise if something isn’t done.
“It’s just not acceptable,” Garner said. “I just think that if people would realize these deaths are happening in every county, not just Madison County. It’s our neighbors and our friends and our communities. It’s going to increase. It’s just going to keep going up. The more cases that go up, the more hospitalizations and the more deaths.”
West Tennessee Healthcare also released a statement earlier this week, urging West Tennesseans to continue wearing masks, washing their hands, and social distancing.