As a result of a concerning increase in COVID-19 cases, health care leaders across Pontotoc County are urging the community to continue taking the virus seriously and follow all recommended guidelines to prevent further spread.

The county added another 320 cases since Friday. In addition to an increase in COVID-19 cases, Mercy Hospital Ada and Chickasaw Nation Medical Center have seen an increase in patients overall, straining resources and staff at both health care facilities. The increase in community spread and influx of patients has impacted hospital staff, EMS crews and transport services and created long waits in emergency departments and holds on hospital admissions until a staffed bed is available.

Both hospitals routinely operate at or near capacity. Heath care leaders are in frequent, daily communication with facilities across the region to manage bed availability and transfer patients when medically appropriate. Emergency departments in Ada are not currently offering rapid COVID-19 testing for patients with minor symptoms. If you do not need emergency care, please visit a primary care clinic for testing.

“These trends are especially concerning with the holiday season approaching,” said Mendy Spohn, regional director at Pontotoc County Health Department. “This has been a difficult year for everyone, and we are sensitive to the desire to have annual holiday celebrations with family and friends. However, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. If you are symptomatic, please stay home and quarantine. We are asking our neighbors and community members to join us in a renewed commitment to social distancing, wearing a mask, hand washing, not gathering in large groups and getting your flu shot so you can continue to celebrate the holidays with family and friends for years to come.”

There are numerous publications and research studies supporting the use of mask wearing to reduce the spread of droplet-borne viruses like COVID-19. The average reduction of spread is about 80%. Masks should be worn primarily to protect others from droplets expelled by coughing, sneezing and talking. However, there are also clear benefits to the wearer of the mask.

Mercy Hospital Ada

Over the last week, Mercy has seen a 15% increase in patients coming to the emergency department. Mercy’s outpatient lab has averaged around a 12% COVID-19 positive rate, but that rate has increased to nearly 50% positive in the last month.

To protect co-workers and patients from the spread of the virus, Mercy Hospital Ada is not allowing visitors for adult patients with a few exceptions for labor and delivery, end of life, etc.

“We are really at a tipping point with community spread in Ada,” said Terence Farrell, president of Mercy Hospital Ada. “If our infection rate continues at the current trajectory, our community will likely have to make some difficult decisions regarding our ability to go to work, send our kids to school or get back to some semblance of a normal life. We are asking for your support in doing everything in your power to slow the spread of this very real virus.”

Chickasaw Nation Medical Center

Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Health Dr. Charles Grim said that the surge was expected.

“There has been a lot of talk from very early on that winter may be a very difficult time for us and that we could see another rise, and we’re starting to see that,” said Dr. Grim. “It can happen overnight or over a weekend. A hospital can go from feeling like they have adequate capacity to being full. We have had some sustained spread of the virus, and now we are starting to see increases across the country. Now is the time to be very vigilant.”

Central Oklahoma Family Medical Center

Central Oklahoma Family Medical Center also reports a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 positive patients seen in their outpatient clinics.

“With cold and flu season also upon us, the importance of practicing universal precautions such as hand washing, maintaining appropriate distance from one another, and the utilization of masks has never been more important,” said Brenda Ware, chief executive officer for Central Oklahoma Family Medical Center.

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