SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – You may not have heard the trumpet sound “CHARGE! But state cavalry has arrived to help fight the surge of COVID-19 cases in southwest Missouri.
Governor Mike Parson announced on Thursday that additional staff and supplies were being sent to Springfield and Greene County as the large number of new cases that had gained national attention overwhelmed the region’s health system.
On Friday, this cavalry got down to work with ambulance response teams made available to help local hospitals. The teams consist of 10 advanced resuscitation ambulances, 20 medical staff, two response team leaders and a logistics specialist, all to help transport patients with COVID-19.
The rest of the state cavalry were not visible to the public, but their presence was indicated by small road signs along Grand Street and the Kansas Expressway (right next to a “Sale of garage ”) which read:“ COVID-19 infusions by appointment only.
These signs can be found in the former Price Cutter store in South Springfield, which is now managed by the Jordan Valley Community Health Center.
For a while, the building was used for mass vaccinations, then closed when demand declined. Now it is increasingly intensive for antibody treatments with the help of local health officials and 10 members of DMAT, the state’s disaster medical assistant team, a group that you would normally associate with a major tragedy like a tornado.
“You use an analogy with a tornado coming on, it’s almost like that with the number of patients getting sick and the shortage of health workers in the city,” said Lisa Cillessen, clinical pharmacist from Jordan Valley. “It’s really important that the state recognizes that it’s not right here in Springfield and that it’s time to do something before it gets to a catastrophic level and we call on the federal government.”
“It’s important to realize how taxed the health care system is in the Springfield area,” added Dr. Matthew Stinson, executive vice president of Jordan Valley. “Being able to do this in a week has been almost unprecedented and we really appreciate that the governor’s office is stepping up and providing the resources. “
Appealing to the state for emergency help is something local health officials never had to do during the worst of the pandemic last year when Springfield was on lockdown, which should give you an idea of how serious things are now.
“It’s worse now than it originally was,” Cillessen said. “In the beginning, we had time during these lockdown phases to create additional resources. We do not have a lockdown period now to rebuild this infrastructure as we had before. “
What is currently being done in the Jordan Valley with state aid are infusions of monoclonal antibodies. These are not antibodies taken from COVID-19 patients but antibodies produced in the laboratory instead. They are not used on seriously ill patients, but on patients with mild or moderate illnesses to prevent them from getting worse.
“It’s for people who have the disease who have a high risk of progression,” Stinson said. “These are the people who are admitted to the hospital so it is important for us to treat them and keep them out of the hospital.”
“We are looking at the high risks that could get them to hospital,” Cillessen added. “Chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, overweight or obesity. When we started doing the infusions, most of the patients were 50, 60, 70 and 80 years old. Now most of them are in their 20s to 30s and honestly they have worse symptoms than what we were originally seeing.
Like vaccines, the latest versions of the monoclonal antibodies have only been approved for emergency use, but Cillessen said she doesn’t see much reluctance over infusion offers.
“It’s not fully FDA approved, but they feel so bad they don’t care,” she said of the sick patients who qualify. “They just want to get better.”
It takes about three hours to receive an infusion treatment and from next week the Jordan Valley site will treat up to 33 patients per day. The plan should be open seven days a week for the next two weeks and then reassess the situation.
Prospective patients should be referred and should receive the infusion within 10 days of the onset of their first symptoms. Cillessen also stressed that the first thing a patient should do if they think an infusion could help them is to take a COVID-19 test.
“Get tested wherever you can as quickly as possible,” she said. “We need to have this test before we can do an infusion for you. But most patients will start to feel better in about 24 to 48 hours, and most of the patients I have worked with have had complete resolution of symptoms within a week.
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