COVID-19 testing in Monett continuing
CoxHealth CEO stresses masks, hygiene, distancing
Testing for COVID-19 (coronavirus) infections will continue for the time being in Monett, reported Steve Edwards, chief executive officer for CoxHealth Systems, in a weekly media briefing on Thursday.
Testing at the First United Methodist Church in Monett by Cox Monett and Mercy Hospitals staff through May 18 had tested 133 people, approximately 10 per day.
“We’ve been able to liberalize the testing criteria with just one symptom,” Edwards said. “We asked for three or more symptoms before.”
Some people may end up tested simply showing allergy symptoms. More liberalized testing may result in more cases detected, Edwards said. For now, he said the testing in Monett would continue, though discussion had opened on shutting the testing down.
On Friday, Cox Monett announced the mobile testing unit had held its last session at the First United Methodist Church. Starting on Monday, the unit will set up at the CoxHealth Urgent Care at Central and Cleveland. Changing location was due to low testing numbers and would result in a more efficient use of staff.
“Testing for COVID-19 will be conducted curbside,” the announcement said. “Patients will not come inside. A physician order will still be required.”
With Gov. Mike Parson talking about expanding testing across the state, Edwards said CoxHealth was “gearing up well” for leading that testing. He expected nearly random testing would be done, followed up by contact tracing. As local economies open, Edwards acknowledged increased risk for infections.
He said the reluctance of the public to use face masks as local economies begin to reopen concerns him deeply.
“It’s because of really good science that we have an understanding that masks combined with hand hygiene and physical distancing can stop spread of the virus,” Edwards said. “Any one alone is not perfect. In conjunction, it looks like they can thwart advancement of disease. Wearing a mask is about protecting the people you love. With about 60 percent of people wearing masks, that will start making a significant impact in the community.
“This is not a political issue. The virus is not affiliated with politics or faith. Masks matter.”
In Springfield, CoxHealth has had 30 COVID-19 cases. The last death from the virus took place three weeks ago. While local infections have seen less severe than cases seen in major cities, Edwards said Cox has had a 22-year-old female patient who barely survived her case. She had no pre-existing health conditions, other than her pregnancy. He stressed the virus can be just as dangerous for the young as older patients.
While it appears the COVID-19 strain may be less severe than what has been seen in major cities, Edwards said there is insufficient science to document a difference. On the other hand, he noted there is evidence suggesting that the COVID-19 virus may be less likely to mutate.
The number of local patients has been insufficient to document more vulnerability by a particular population or ethnic group. However, Edwards said there are other indicators that reflect people at risk. Those who don’t own cars, for example, are more likely to take public transportation in close proximity to others. People from some cultures are more likely to live in multi-family households, with a greater chance for exposure. Others may have entry level jobs and cannot afford to stay away from their jobs, despite health risks. Those people, he noted, warrant more caution.
At the present time, Edwards said seasonal factors have begun impacting spread of the virus. Flattening of the curve is evident, but he warned because of the seasonal effect, the virus may just as easily return in the fall.
“This thing won’t go away till we get vaccines or herd immunity,” he said.
To community leaders, Edwards had some words of caution.
“If I was a leader, I would be concerned with how I was judged this time next year, not now,” he said. “If we follow the science, we can control this. We need to learn how to live inside a pandemic. There are ways to make distancing, hand hygiene and masking work.
“Science is showing people who are side-by-side, elbow-to-elbow and shoulder-to-shoulder, having persistent contact, are the most likely to spread the virus. We need to continue to be cautious and careful.”