The recent increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Campbell County and Wyoming concerns Campbell County Health about what’s to come.
The organization is bracing for what could be another busy fall in response to an increase in COVID-19 community rates and hospitalizations paired with a shortage of certain supplies and staffing, said Misty Robertson, CCH chief nursing officer, whose last day with CCH was Friday.
Despite the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine this time around, some of the red flags from last year are beginning to pop-up.
Natalie Tucker, CCH’s interim chief nursing officer, said that CCH leadership has returned to regular meetings to plan its day-to-day operations due to the recent increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations, emergency room and walk-in clinic visits.
The 140 COVID-19 patients hospitalized throughout the state as of Friday is the most in Wyoming since there were 146 patients hospitalized on Christmas Eve, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
The ongoing toll has more than tripled since July 1, when there were 39 COVID-19 patients in the state.
Tucker said the statewide trends have appeared in Campbell County, too.
Although there have been more COVID-19 patients lately, the organization has not had to set-up and use alternate care sites within the hospital, as it did during the spike last fall.
And while not quite the staffing crisis of last year, the organization is seeing a shortage in staff. Robertson said that the hospital has not reached the point of being overwhelmed, but is concerned of the possibility.
In November and December, when the state and county had its highest number of patients to care for, Campbell County Memorial Hospital received a slew of support in the form of state CARES Act funding freed up to pay for traveling nurses as well as a federally assigned Disaster Medical Assistance Team that brought in out-of-state personnel.
The demand for traveling medical personnel has remained high, making it difficult and expensive to find temporary help if needed, Robertson said.
Campbell County Memorial Hospital has had its share of COVID-19 patients through its doors this summer after a relatively mild spring.
According to the Wyoming Department of Health’s records, Campbell County peaked with 28 COVID-19 patients on Dec. 10.
Between Feb. 1 and May 15, there were no more than three COVID-19 patients at one time in the county. That number rose during the early summer spike, topping out at eight coronavirus patients in the hospital on June 6.
The number of hospitalizations rose again in August, with 12 COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Aug. 3, as the county’s new and active case counts have continued to grow.
There were seven COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Friday.
The 289 active cases on Friday stands in comparison to the 24 active cases in Campbell County on July 1, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
In line with national trends, Robertson said that the patients CCH has seen tend to be younger and sicker than in past waves. The CCH patients have been primarily unvaccinated with a projected rate of breakthrough infections at about 3% statewide.
In regard to supplies, CCH has faced a shortage of its oxygen supply, which Robertson said COVID-19 patients typically need.
Regardless of the politicization that may surround vaccination in this community, Robertson said that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is probably the strongest defense against illness and strain on the health care system.