News Briefs

Columbia hospitals launch color-coded system to warn of COVID stress to services

By: - November 11, 2020 9:50 am

The deaths data, which the department calls “probable” COVID-19 fatalities, is being added eight months after the department began reporting antigen-identified infections in its daily report (image courtesy of CDC).

The state Department of Health and Senior Services reported the fourth day of more than 4,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as the coronavirus continued to infect more Missourians faster than it has at any time of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations continue to increase rapidly, up more than 31 percent statewide this month and creating stress in all regions as rural hospitals face continuing difficulty finding beds in facilities that can provide higher levels of care.

The three hospitals in Columbia launched a new color-coded system Tuesday for warning the community when stress from a rising number of COVID-19 patients makes it difficult to take additional patients or provide care for other ailments.

“Each healthcare system has had to divert patients, defer referrals from other hospitals or issue bed holding status in response to this increased capacity,” a joint statement from the hospitals, issued through the city of Columbia, said. “Our staff continues to be stretched thin as they respond and provide care for both patients with and without COVID.”

The three hospitals – Boone Hospital Center, University of Missouri Health Care and Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital – reported Tuesday that they are in yellow status. That means the hospitals are within their capacity but delaying transfers from other hospitals for more than two day or delaying non-urgent procedures to conserve capacity.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services reported 142 inpatients in the three hospitals, with MU Health reporting 60 and Boone Hospital reporting 40.

The number of inpatients at the three hospitals have increase by 43 COVID-19 patients since Nov. 1.  Of the inpatients reported Tuesday, 29 are Boone County residents. The remainder are from a 25-county region in central Missouri the Columbia hospitals serve as the destination for care that cannot be provided in smaller, rural hospitals.

That increase is also being seen statewide, with 2,146 inpatients as of Monday, an increase of more than 500 since the beginning of the month. The St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported a record 114 new COVID-19 inpatients Tuesday and a record total of 657 COVID-19 patients.

BJC HealthCare, which manages Boone Hospital in Columbia, on Monday began postponing elective procedures at its St. Louis hospitals to conserve bed space.

The 4,071 new cases reported statewide Wednesday pushed the seven-day average of newly reported cases to 3,963, up 210 from the day before. All four days with at least 4,000 cases have occurred in the last week. The department has reported more than 3,000 for seven consecutive days. The first day with more than 3,000 cases was Oct. 29.

The positive rate on tests continued to climb, running at just under 40 percent over the past seven days in the state’s calculation, which reports first positive tests as a share of all first tests, and 21 percent when all positives are reported as a share of all tests.

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Rudi Keller
Rudi Keller

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.