CoronavirusFeaturedNewsThe SouthSider

Hospitals scramble to stretch supplies as virus cases surge

ST. LOUIS (AP) – Nurses and other front-line medical workers at BJC HealthCare, SSM Health, Mercy and a veterans hospital say that hospital leaders are asking some staff to reuse masks, put limits on sanitation materials and set new policies on use of protective gear.

“With the unknown of what’s coming, and knowing that we’re seeing places across the country running into shortages, we have to examine what all our options are — to use our supplies and our PPE when necessary and appropriate, conserving it when that is also appropriate,” Mercy spokesman Joe Poelker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s a big task.”

A doctor at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights tested positive and is quarantined at home, SSM Health said. A statement said the doctor had not seen patients at the hospital since March 16 and did not show symptoms while at work.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said on Twitter that projections from the region’s three biggest health care providers suggested that the spread of cases could slow in mid- to late-April. But she wrote that “so much depends on all of us staying home as much as we can. That’s why we need a statewide order.”

Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, has banned gatherings of more than 10 people but has declined to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.

In a news conference Saturday, Parson defended his handling of the crisis, noting that he had issued five executive orders, activated the National Guard and taken many other steps.

“Since January we have been preparing for this,” Parson said. “And we had a plan, and we’re implementing that plan.”

Confirmed cases have been reported since Friday at three additional nursing homes in the St. Louis region. On Thursday, confirmed cases were reported for four residents and two employees at Life Care Center of St. Louis. Three residents and an employee also have tested positive at a facility in St. Charles.

Earlier this week, about 150 inmates were released from St. Louis city and county jails combined, over COVID-19 concerns. In Kansas City, 80 inmates were released from the Jackson County jail.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services announced Saturday that the state health lab would now test health care workers and first responders who have symptoms and have had close contact with a suspected coronavirus patient. The lab results are typically available within a day, whereas commercial lab results can take a week or more, the state said.

The latest death – of a resident of St. Charles County – was reported Friday night, bringing Missouri’s total to 838.

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