Picture of healthcare workers
Southwest Missouri is seeing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. Here, healthcare workers at Cox South in Springfield aid a victim. Credit: CoxHealth

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Missouri is sending medical staff and equipment to Springfield and Greene County, responding to a request to aid the region’s straining hospitals, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday.

Teams of ambulances and medical staff, as well as an antibody facility to help treat COVID patients, will aid local healthcare facilities as southwest Missouri fights one of the worst Delta variant outbreaks in the country. Federal authorities are also evaluating the county’s request for a field hospital to treat additional patients, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Ten ambulances, 20 medical personnel, two strike team leaders and a logistics specialist will aid transport of COVID patients in the area. Those teams will be provided through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a multi-state mutual aid agreement, and sent by Arkansas. The teams will stay in Missouri for up to two weeks, and the state has requested that FEMA provide similar aid if the need arises.

An antibody facility will also be set up and begin taking in patients , treating them with monoclonal antibodies, or proteins that help the body fight the virus if given to patients soon after they’re diagnosed. That center is a collaboration between Jordan Valley Health Center, other facilities in the region and the state’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team.

The staff and equipment support is in response to a July 14 request by the county as its hospitals neared capacity, forcing patients to be treated in St. Louis and Kansas City as vaccination rates lag. 

“We are pleased at the commitment of some of the aid that the Health Department, Office of Emergency Management, CoxHealth, Mercy, and Jordan Valley Community Health Center requested last week,” said Aaron Schekorra, spokesperson for the Springfield/Greene County Health Department, said Thursday. “We are also glad to see progress on the request for the Alternative Care Site. This support will help save lives and ease the strain that the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations is putting on our health care workers.”

Five days later, on July 19, Greene County asked the State Emergency Management Agency to set up an alternate care site in the area. The county’s Office of Emergency Management has identified a hospital in the area suitable to be converted into a field hospital. That request has been sent to FEMA by the state and is pending.

The Greene County Commission declared a state of emergency in the county Wednesday, aiming to allow local top health officials to request support for the region with more ease. The declaration is not a stay-at-home order or mask mandate, or a “first step to any related orders,” according to a statement from the commission. 

The state of emergency will last until it is revoked by the commission.

At CoxHealth, there were 162 COVID-19 patients on Thursday; Mercy had 148.

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