Doctors prepare for post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge

JOPLIN, Mo. – After Thanksgiving gatherings and Black Friday shopping, doctors anticipate more hospitalizations from COVID-19 as it continues to spread in the area.

“We saw a bit of a spike following Halloween. So that just leads us to believe that obviously Thanksgiving will probably, we’ll see a definite increase,” says Donna Stokes, Infection Preventionist at Mercy Hospital.

Following Halloween, both Mercy and Freeman saw increases in cases. At Mercy, their numbers went up from 34 on October 30th to 50 on November 16th. Hospitalizations didn’t level off until November 27th, when they had 36 patients. At Freeman, their cases went from 30 cases on October 30th, to 51 on November 13th.

“You know Christmas is right on the heels of Thanksgiving, so I don’t think the numbers will decrease in that period of time,” says Stokes. “I only see the potential for them to increase.”

At Freeman, they’ve already started to see new hospitalizations after Thanksgiving. Though, it’s hard to know for sure if they stem from Thanksgiving since the hospital usually sees surges between five and 14 days after a holiday. So they’re getting prepared for a notable increase.

“We currently are increasing the number of rooms that we have dedicated to COVID,” says Dr. Dennis Estep, Chief Medical Officer at Freeman Health System. “Then we have to make sure that we have the proper equipment, the proper monitoring for patients that we would need to put in there.”

Doctors say if you went to large gatherings or were in crowds over the holiday, the best way to prevent spread in the community is to wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance.

“We’re on the short end of this. We know it’s gonna continue for a while, but we’ve fought the good fight all of these months. Just continue. Stay vigilant,” says Stokes.

As of 11/29, there were 95 area residents hospitalized at hospitals in Joplin with COVID-19. Those include Freeman, Mercy, and Landmark.