Local health officials say they’re prepared for whatever COVID future holds

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JOPLIN, Mo. – As we start to learn more about the new COVID “Omicron” variant, local health officials say they’re ready for whatever happens. We spoke with Freeman officials on what they’ve learned and how they’re using it moving forward.

There’s not a lot available yet on the new Omicron variant, like how contagious it could be, or whether or not the symptoms will be more severe. Despite the unknowns, what’s been learned from the past, is helping local hospitals prepare for what’s next. Dr. McNab says “We’ve had multiple surges over the past two years and each time we reached a new high water mark, we’ve had to advance our plan and increase service lines and so, we have the ability to flex to three units if we need to and run them full time and we’ve done that in the past and we’d rather not do it again.”

Dr. Rob McNab is Freeman’s Director of Covid Services. He’s spent time ensuring the hospital is ready to treat the next potential wave of COVID patients. “Our supply lines have been built up to be much more robust as far as protective items for patient care.”

While current in-patient COVID numbers at the hospital are low, Dr. McNab says they won’t be letting their guard down now, or in the future. “I feel like we have incredibly increased our reserve to be able to flex as we need to to deal with any further surges.”

We reached out to Mercy Hospital in Joplin as well who told us in a statement that “At this point, we’re well equipped to care for everyone who needs us, whether for COVID-19 or any other illness.” As for Freeman, they’re taking what they’ve learned and applying it to the future of the hospital. “We’re about to go into a growth phase here at Freeman, looking at big structural changes, and part of that design is wrapped around needing to have reverse isolation and a respiratory isolation ward, as I don’t see where we will not need those resources into the future.”

Dr. McNab says he wants to continue to urge everyone who can get vaccinated to do so and he says if you’re eligible for a booster, you should get it as soon as possible to stay ahead of the virus.