An earthquake followed by the rapid rise of water along a coastline and the loud roar of the ocean is often the first sign of a tsunami.
For local medical personnel at Comanche County Memorial Hospital, that earthquake has been the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases needing medical attention. With last weekend’s super spreader potential from Labor Day activities rippling the shoreline the loud roar from statistics has professionals bracing for the worst from this adaptive virus.
As of Tuesday, Memorial, 3401 W. Gore, is at 100 percent of its beds full and 27 patients awaiting a bed, according to Nicole Jolly, hospital communications director. There are 61 total COVID-19 patients among them.
Jolly said of the 61, 49 are unvaccinated and three are partially-vaccinated. There is only one vaccinated among the 14 in ICU due to COVID-19. Twenty-three of the hospital’s 39 ventilators are in use, she said. Overall, 41 of these patients are using mechanical breathing assistance, she said.
On Tuesday, the number of COVID-19 patients were just under the record from January, according to Jolly. The worst is expected in the coming 10 days.
“We’re anticipating breaking the record of 63 in the next 24 to 48 hours,” she said. “There are trends showing that. From what I hear from our leadership nursing team, that we are expected to peak Sept. 16 or 17.”
Due to the influx of patients coming into the hospital’s emergency room, Jolly said a request was made with the Oklahoma Department of Health’s local District 5 to establish an emergency shelter outside its entrance.
Rebecca Villa-Winset, the District 5 Emergency Response Coordinator, was on-site Tuesday overseeing the construction of the 19-feet by 30-feet Western Shelter. In her position since 2011, and with the Department of Health for 30 years, she said the hospital’s request makes sense under the circumstances.
“They’re already having a siege,” she said. “This is a priority. Putting this up takes all hands on deck.”
A crew of employees from Memorial, District 5 and the Oklahoma Department of Health warehouse staff worked through the afternoon to have the mobile facility functional by evening.
Villa-Winsett said the tent, one of 15 in the state, can serve many needs, from a reception area to a triage among many roles. With two large generators and dozens of crates carrying its components, on a good day you can have it functional within two hours. With lights, heat and air conditioning, the staked down structure will handle the Oklahoma elements, she said.
This is the second time the tent was used at Memorial this year. Villa-Winsett said it was set up to help those in need following a spring hailstorm that hit Comanche County. This is the second tent used in the battle against COVID-19 numbers. She said another had been set up in Stillwater last weekend due to an anticipated surge due to the Labor Day weekend.
There’s an urgency in reminding the public why this need was filled, according to Villa-Winsett.
“I would like to emphasize the fact that this is an emergency activation, Comanche County Memorial Hospital is experiencing a very high surge of patients, and this is a very serious situation and we have to do what we can to help them,” she said. “And that means getting vaccinated if you’re not and at least wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, it’s important.”
Jolly said the emergency shelter will be there “as long as we need it.” Use was still in the planning stage Tuesday afternoon.
Staffing issues are another set-back taken under consideration, according to Jolly. The numbers of medical staff available compared to the number of patients in need is pushing the limits of capacity.
“Which is a concern and challenge for everyone in the community, state and country,” she said.
Jolly said the hospital and District 5 are working closely in attempt to curtail the tide before it comes crashing to shore and completely overwhelms the healthcare community.
“We’ve got to get people vaccinated because this is not going away and, of course, we have other emergencies as well,” she said. “When someone comes in with COVID-19, if they need to be hospitalized, they can stay as long as 30 days and there’s only so many beds we have.”
It is hoped dark times can be staved off. But Jolly said Tuesday’s numbers offer a grim forecast.
“So, we’re at 61 and it’s not slowing down,” she said, “and, unfortunately, we’re having deaths as well. We’re seeing a lot of COVID patients needing extra care.”
Written by Scott Rains: email@example.com.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that 49 COVID-19 patients were vaccinated. This has been corrected to reflect the correct status.