(Joplin, MO) – Freeman Health System President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker announced the hospital’s COVID-19 intensive care unit currently had just one patient on Tuesday, March 2 during a morning media briefing. A total of ten were hospitalized at Freeman West with nine being treated in the medical COVID-19 unit. Several of those patients were expected to be discharged on March 2. Three COVID-19 patients were being treated at Freeman Neosho Hospital.
“This is definitely an improvement,” said Baker. “At one point, we had 66 COVID-19 patients, so numbers are heading in a positive direction. Citizens are to be commended for doing the right things that make flattening the curve possible. And we urge everyone to continue prevention measures, including getting the vaccine when it is available to you in consultation with your physician.”
Dr. Rob McNab, Freeman Director of COVID-19 Services, said the goal is herd immunity, which can slow the spread of the coronavirus and contain the virus’s ability to mutate.
“Every time we spread an infection to someone else, the opportunity for mutation is present,” said Dr. McNab. “It is what viruses do. If we can get herd immunity in the community at large, which would be 50–70% immune, that will slow down the ability of the virus to jump from host to host and slows down its ability to change into something we can’t effectively treat.”
Dr. McNab said variant forms of the coronavirus have appeared in Missouri and are reported to be more infectious and more lethal, but numbers here have been small and more data samples are needed to discuss the variants’ impact on mortality rates. Until more people are vaccinated, Dr. McNab recommends maintaining preventative measures.
“There will be some who get the vaccine who will be able to get the virus and pass it on to someone who was not vaccinated,” Dr. McNab said. “It’s more important that we don’t relax our standards for things we clearly know work for us. That includes masking, handwashing, and social distancing.”
Freeman has been designated as a high throughput vaccinator by the State of Missouri. Freeman Chief Clinical Officer Jeff Thompson said the hospital vaccinates about 1,200 people every other week. Second dose booster vaccinations arriving soon will bring that average to 1,200 a week.
“The limiting factor is availability of the vaccine,” said Thompson. “We receive an allocation from the state every two weeks and we share that allocation with other hospitals in the region. Demand for the vaccine certainly outpaces the supply.”
Freeman will maintain its current visitor policy that limits guests and requires masks in the hospital and all clinics.
Freeman has tested 48,765 patients for the coronavirus and of that total, 9,735 were positive, resulting in a 20% positivity rate.
About Freeman Health System
Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020-2021. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com.
Lisa Olliges, Freeman Health System
Marketing and Media Relations Coordinator