Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, runs out of ventilators as COVID cases ravage the area

A hospital in Springfield, Missouri, ran out of ventilators for its patients over the Fourth of July weekend as the area, right in the middle of a COVID-19 hot spot, deals with a rise in cases.

On Monday, Mercy Springfield hospital officials reported that more ventilators had arrived, a second COVID-19 ICU unit was opened and that more respiratory therapists are needed to help the “tired” ones working now.

Situations like that, public health officials say, are avoidable if people would get vaccinated.

Chief administrative officer, Erik Frederick, tweeted Sunday that the hospital “spent the night looking for ventilators because we ran out.”

He wrote that the hospital had 47 patients on ventilators, “a lot of those are COVID but not all.”

He said more ventilators were on their way from Mercy St. Louis and Mercy Northwest Arkansas in Rogers, Arkansas, other hospitals in the Mercy health system.

Frederick tweeted on Monday that the hospital was, “Running almost 50 vents now. We are expanding to 2nd COVID ICU and a 2nd step down. Physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists are tired. Heck everyone is tired. Travel RN’s coming this week. Physician support being arranged. If you’re a RT, call us.”

Running out of ventilators was the nightmare scenario hospital administrators across the country feared at the outset of the pandemic. COVID is a respiratory illness that, at its worst, can cause extreme respiratory distress.

Ventilators, also known as life-support machines, pump air into a patient’s airways when they can’t breathe on their own. They are used for the sickest of COVID patients, while hospitalized patients with less severe symptoms are now treated with medications.

There have been no reported shortages of ventilators among Kansas City hospitals during the pandemic.

As of Monday, Missouri is reporting 643 confirmed cases of COVID-19 a day and had 859 hospitalized COVID patients — 124 of them on ventilators, according to Missouri’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Greene County, where Springfield is located in southwest Missouri, had 692 confirmed cases and five COVID deaths in the last seven days, according to the dashboard.

People getting sick with COVID now are mostly unvaccinated, say public health and hospital officials who are still trying to figure out how to convince all eligible Americans to get vaccinated.

Missouri remains in the bottom half of all states in vaccinating residents, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 47.4% of Americans are fully vaccinated.

In Missouri, only 39.3% have completed vaccination, according to the state’s data.

State officials have requested help from federal “surge response teams” to help communities struggling with low vaccination rates as the delta variant takes off. Vaccination campaigns have been particularly tough in rural parts of the state.

At this point, because of the effectiveness of the COVID vaccines widely available, new cases are preventable, health officials and hospital administrators have been saying for weeks.

“Obviously there are going to be some people, because of the variability among people and their response to vaccine, that you’ll see some who are vaccinated and still get into trouble and get hospitalized and die,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

“But the overwhelming proportion of people who get into trouble are the unvaccinated. Which is the reason why we say this is really entirely avoidable and preventable.”

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