By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ
COOKEVILLE – In response to the increasing cases of COVID in Putnam and the surrounding counties, Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC) is implementing its COVID surge protocol and is immediately suspending elective surgical procedures that require an overnight stay and adding six additional ICU beds.
“We’ve got a very busy medical center over here with a lot of patients right now,” said Paul Korth, CEO at CRMC. “We are surging up in our numbers, and we are doing things appropriately to take care of those patients.”
As of Tuesday morning, 61 patients were hospitalized at CRMC with COVID, just down from Monday’s record high of 66 patients. This is a 33% increase in patients in the last seven days.
Although Putnam County schools have just returned from fall break, Korth doesn’t see any correlation between the break and this recent COVID spike at CRMC. Instead, Korth thinks the cause is something closer to home.
“You can definitely make a correlation that large gatherings, not properly socially distancing and not wearing a mask is definitely contributing to our numbers in our community – and throughout not only our community, but the state and throughout the nation,” Korth stated. “As more people are getting out, it’s causing this virus to spread.”
Total cases in Putnam County have risen by 331 cases in the last week, and now stand at 4,156 with 460 active cases.
As recently as Oct. 8, there were no patients in the ICU. Since then, the number of patients sick enough to require ICU care has been on the rise, with 13 COVID patients there today.
Korth doesn’t think that the ICU is in danger of reaching its capacity.
“We made some temporary changes this afternoon to make sure that we have the capacity to take care of patients that need ICU care,” he said. “We opened up six more beds today to be able to do that.
“With elective surgeries being cancelled, that will free up some additional beds,” Korth added. “So, we should see our numbers bedwise and excess capacity increase over the next couple of days as we don’t have elective cases that require inpatient stays.”
CRMC is also looking at ways to get patients home much faster, either on home health treatments or different means to get those patients taken care of.
CRMC is putting an emphasis on the importance of masking when in public. They are even working on publications to encourage the community to wear a mask.
Korth advised, “I would continue to encourage individuals if they are going to gatherings, that they do it in a way where they can social distance themselves, and also wear a mask. I think that is a very important and very critical thing to focus on.”
As for CRMC, Korth assures, “With the stuff we are doing, I feel very confident that will take care of the needs of the community.”