Hospitals around the country are again overwhelmed with patients seeking relief from COVID-19 symptoms, and staffing shortages threaten to delay care in the midst of an omicron variant surge.
But health officials say if proper action is taken, the next few weeks could curb omicron just as the variant reaches an all-time high in daily cases.
“I’m hoping that folks in the county will kind of change behaviors for a few weeks, just to try to decrease the transmission and the strain on the hospital,” county health officer Dr. Scott Douglas said. “Please postpone your indoor gatherings and social events until we get through this wave.”
The next two weeks will be the most crucial, he emphasized, saying the surge is anticipated to peak by the end of January.
“We’re hoping that things die down dramatically after that,” he said.
Daily cases have climbed from an average of 40 per day in September last year to 60 as of Thursday. As many as 90 daily positive cases are expected in the days leading up to Jan. 30.
Franciscan Health Crawfordsville is no exception in the nation’s struggle. Shorthanded and facing 140% patient capacity, the hospital has again implemented proactive measures such as suspending elective surgeries and erecting a testing site on facility grounds.
Furthermore, the hospital has expanded its intensive care capacity from five beds to eight, though bed shortages are proving secondary to those of overall manpower.
“It’s not so much the physical space that’s the problem, it’s having the people and the healthcare providers to staff it,” Douglas said. “And we’re seeing breakthrough cases — folks who are vaccinated are catching the virus, and folks who have been previously infected are catching omicron as well, but still the highest numbers are in our non-vaccinated folks.”
As of Thursday, only 1.3% of ICU beds remained available in Indiana’s fourth district, which includes Montgomery County, from a total of 78. Asked how long ICU beds may be available, Douglas said the last beds would “surely be filled” by today.
Vaccinations are available to anyone ages 5 and older and may be scheduled through select pharmacies in the county, as well as the county health department. Boosters also are available for those who have been fully vaccinated.
The message from the health department remains: Continue mitigating the spread of COVID-19 through facial coverings and social distancing.
“We need to really try to decrease the transmission of the infection over the next couple weeks, which means not gathering indoors in groups, especially for meetings that aren’t necessary,” Douglas said. “If we’re gathering indoors we need to have a mask on. And for social events — I’m thinking of engagement parties or baby showers or family get-togethers — this is not the time to do them. They need to be postponed.”
For more information or to schedule a vaccination, contact the Montgomery County Health Department at 765-364-6440 or visit www.montgomerycounty.in.gov.
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