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Coronavirus Pandemic Pushing Local Hospitals Toward Capacity

Photo by Scott McCloskey – Wheeling Hospital announced that the hospital itself was at 75 percent capacity and the intensive care unit at 72 percent capacity, with the COVID-19 pandemic partially to blame.

WHEELING — The worsening COVID-19 pandemic is leading to several area hospitals nearing capacity on their emergency rooms and hospital bed space.

Marshall and Ohio county COVID numbers grew again Wednesday. The Marshall County Health department reported three new deaths along with 41 new positive cases and 10 probable cases Wednesday evening. The deaths were a 74-year-old male who was a resident of a long-term care facility, a 92-year-old female who was a resident of a long-term care facility and an 83-year-old male who was hospitalized.

Marshall County now has 800 confirmed cases and 116 probable cases, nine hospitalized and 13 associated deaths.

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department reported one death Wednesday, a resident of a long-term care center.

It also reported 44 new positive cases, bringing the county’s totals to 1,192 cases and 16 deaths.

In a statement released Wednesday, Wheeling Hospital said the hospital itself was at 75 percent capacity, and the intensive care unit at 72 percent capacity. The increased caseload has caused hospital staff to reorganize rooms to help accommodate the influx of patients.

“We have opened additional negative pressure rooms in the hospital to isolate suspected COVID patients as well. We are managing, but it is stressful,” hospital Chief Executive Officer Douglass E. Harrison said in the statement. “The biggest concern is staffing. Many employees are either out with COVID or are quarantined due to potential exposure. The next several weeks will certainly be a trying time for all health care entities, not just Wheeling Hospital.

“I would urge the community to be very cautious this holiday season about large gatherings,” he continued. “Try to limit gatherings to people within your household or with immediate family. Please wear a mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing of at least 6 feet apart. If the community can do its part in helping stop the spread, that makes their local hospital a much safer place.”

The situation at Reynolds Memorial Hospital is similar, with non-clinical staffers being pulled from different departments to handle routine duties, and downtime at a premium.

“At this point, it’s shift-by-shift assessments,” said Pattie Kimple, infection control coordinator at Reynolds. “There’s a need (to have) staff stay over, and readjust for people to come in on their days off, and have non-clinical (staff) assist on the floor if need be, for duties such as answering the phone.”

Kimple said the hospital’s COVID-19 beds are almost always filled, and that the emergency room occasionally sees wait times due to the increased caseload.

“It’s very, very tight,” she added.

Infection rate and percent positivity in Ohio County worsened again Tuesday, rising to 86.24 and 6.31, respectively. The county remained in “orange” on the West Virginia Departmentof Health and Human Services daily COVID-19 alert map. Marshall County saw an increase to 98.73 infection rate, and 9.47 percent positivity, further burying the county in the “red” on the map.

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