Dwindling hospital space in Missouri prompts officials to request alternate COVID site

Just 40% of residents in Greene County have received at least one vaccine dose.

The Springfield, Missouri, health department is requesting funding for an alternate COVID-19 care site in response to a spike in infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks, health officials announced Wednesday.

Several local health facilities and hospitals jointly requested the alternative care site funding, which would include money for more beds, staff and antibody testing. One of those facilities was Springfield-based Mercy Hospital, which had so many hospitalized COVID patients last week that it had to call in backup ventilators from other hospitals in its network when it ran out.

The increase in severe illness is taxing the health system and sick patients are expected to outpace hospital capacity, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

Of the 231 patients currently being treated in Greene County hospitals, 104 are in critical care and 61 are on ventilators, the health department said.

"The Springfield-Greene County Health Department continues to urge anyone not fully vaccinated continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a mask," Aaron Schekorra, a spokesperson for the health department, told ABC News. "Businesses and organizations are encouraged to implement policies in order to protect their staff, clients, and guests, such as requiring masking for all."

The spike in Springfield is part of a larger wave of COVID in the state that has top health officials worried.

"Missouri is at the top of our list," Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, said during an interview with ABC News Kansas City affiliate KMBC, in reference to concerning COVID hotspots. "It seems to be now expanding more and more (to other areas) of Missouri," Collins added.

Missouri's vaccination rate trails the national average. As of Wednesday, 46% of residents had received at least one dose, and 40% were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared with 56% of all Americans who've gotten at least one shot and 48% who are fully vaccinated.

In Greene County, where Springfield is located, vaccination rates are even lower than the statewide average. Just 40% of Greene County residents have received one dose of the vaccine, and only 35% are fully vaccinated, according to state health department data.

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