‘Just trying to keep it together’: Springfield nurses frustrated as COVID-19 surges – News-Leader

Dr. Fauci talks to News-leader about vaccines, COVID cases in Missouri

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke with News-Leader reporter Galen Bacharier on July 15, 2021 about vaccinations and the spread of COVID-19 in Missouri.

Galen Bacharier, Springfield News-Leader

Jessica Hillger gave herself 30 seconds to cry.

A 40-something woman under Hillger's care at Cox South Hospital in Springfield had gone from feeling under the weather to not being able to breathe on her own in just a few days. And it was Hillger's duty to inform thewoman's husband that his wife might not survive her bout with the Delta variant of COVID-19.

"Im one of the more experienced nurses, so I have to kind of get my crap together and get back out there," Hillger said."Thats kind of the mentality you have to have."

For Hillger and the hundreds of other travel nurses who have come to Springfield to help care for patients suffering from COVID-19, there is little time to stop and grieve.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Springfield has gone from a couple dozen at the end of the spring to nearly 300 on Friday.

Hospital leaders say those hospitalized this summer are generally younger and sicker than the people most affected by COVID-19 during the previous peak this winter. And almost all of the folks hospitalized in Springfieldare unvaccinated.

The eyes of the nation have been on southwest Missouri in recent weeks as the aggressive and highly contagious Delta variant sinks its teeth into a population with vaccination rates well below the national average.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the president and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the News-Leader the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be effective against the Delta variant, but the virus could continue to mutate if more people don't get vaccinated.

More: Fauci says Missouri's COVID-19 fight is predictable 'like the sun coming up' but can be curbed

Hillger has been working at Cox for almost a year. This past winter, when COVID-19 cases increased, she remembers how the staff banded together. News that vaccines would soon be widely available served as the light at the end of the tunnel.

But now, with vaccination opportunities abundant, Hillger said the nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists at Cox have grown weary of treating patients who for whatever reasonhave chosen to not be vaccinated.

"I think that everybody is just trying to keep it together," Hillger said.

"You can just tell everybodys souls are just getting heavy," she later added.

Hillger said she appreciated the management at Cox for choosing to divert some patients to other hospitals in the state so that caseloads have not gotten out of control.

On Wednesday,the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, the Greene County Office of Emergency Management, CoxHealth and Mercy requested state-level funding to establishan "alternate care site" for COVID-19 patients to help ease the strain on the hospitals.

More: Health leaders ask for funding to set up 'alternate care site' as hospitals strain under new COVID-19 infections

The Springfield-Greene County Health Departmentoffered some hope on Thursday as they announced that4,371 vaccines had been given to county residents in the last sevendays (the highest weekly count since May) and that40 percentof Greene County residents 12 and older havebeen fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Hillger hopes to see that trend continue because she istired of hearing patients in need of critical care tell her they wish they would have been vaccinated.

"I just wish that people could understand that," she said.

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'Just trying to keep it together': Springfield nurses frustrated as COVID-19 surges - News-Leader

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