UPDATE: On July 21, the number of COVID-positive patients increased to 59.
Seeing a rise in hospitalizations of individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, The Hernando Sun spoke with Katie Stacy, Public Information Officer at Oak Hill Hospital on July 16, 2020.
Stacy said, “We are seeing an increase in COVID cases right now. We currently have 54 COVID positive patients, which reflects what’s happening in the state and really across most areas in the US. We know that there’s an increase there, because on June 18 (2020), we had zero positive cases. So from about one month ago, we increased from zero to 54 cases.”
At the time of this writing, Oak Hill had two open ICU (Intensive Care Unit) in its 36-bed unit. With 80% occupation, about one-third of the ICU was occupied by COVID patients.
Stacy told us that if the ICU should run out of beds, Oak Hill is in a unique position to add more. The current Medical-Surgical unit was formerly an Intensive Care Unit and could be converted back to ICU status since the required equipment has remained in those rooms.
Most COVID positive patients are not inside the ICU. Those who don’t require critical care are in isolated rooms with special precautions to prevent transmission of the virus to healthcare workers. When going into care for COVID patients, the number of staff allowed to enter the room is limited. As well, limiting the number of staff entering the room reduces usage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to avoid shortages.
Oak Hill also leaves iPads in the rooms of capable patients, which are used to communicate with the healthcare team when physical presence is not required.
With the number of hospitalizations increasing, Stacy emphasized prevention habits that slows the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. Handwashing, a primary infection control technique, should be performed adequately by washing with soap for 20 seconds, followed by rinsing for an additional 20 seconds. This 40-second practice can be marked by singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
“Masks are still the best way to prevent infection,” Stacy said. “The best way to go right now is to assume that you are infected and to assume that everybody else is infected. The mask protects everybody from you, and the mask that other people wear protects you from them. So it’s really just about helping each other out in that way and proper hand washing.”
Stacy reported that according to CEO Mickey Smith, almost half of the patients currently hospitalized at Oak Hill with COVID are under age 65. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure.