MDH doctor gives update on local COVID-19 response

MCDONOUGH CO., Ill. (NEWS3) — As some parts of the country start to ease restrictions for combating the coronavirus, local health officials say the peak of the outbreak is still more weeks away for the area.

McDonough District Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Edwin Card gave an update to the Macomb City Council on where the response stands locally to slow the spread of the disease.

He said as of right now, there are several triage tents at the hospital in an effort to keep everyone safe and check temperatures before coming in contact with patients.

One of the tents located outside of the building is used for visitors and employees with non-respiratory issues and another is for patients with those illnesses. The hospital has also set up a drive-thru screening station. You must have an order from a physician and pre-register in order to show up. The screening will rule out whether a patient has Influenza A and B or strep throat before conducting a test for COVID-19. In addition, the hospital is open from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. every day, to offer coronavirus testing for anyone who is immuno-compromised and need to show up if you believe you are infected with the virus.

The east part of the facility, that was used as the OB department but turned into the Dolores Kator Switzer Women’s Center, is now a COVID-19 wing with 10 beds and three ventilators to treat patients. The former senior behavioral health area is also now a critical care unit with 12 beds and each room can accommodate ventilators. Card said another change MDH has made is placing 10 beds in the ambulance garage to evaluate patients who do not have respiratory issues. He said this move is to minimize possible contamination in the emergency room.

Card said the hospital originally had 48 beds available but recently increased the amount to 60. There are a total of 19 ICU beds and the facility has 12 ventilators at this point. MDH has requested 11 additional ventilators from the state.

The council was told, 20 percent of people who carry the virus are asymptomatic. The virus spread is also two or three days before a person shows symptoms. Card said about 80 percent of people will have a mild case of COVID-19 who can recover at home, but 15 percent will be hospitalized and need ventilators. One of the new symptoms for coronavirus that has developed is the loss of taste or smell.

McDonough County has four positive cases of the virus, but Card said that number is still likely to grow.

“Our few cases is a small number, but not predicative of what may be down the road,” he said.

Around 100 people have been tested at MDH, but Card believes there have been cases undetected or not returning a positive result. As of Wednesday, the county has 69 negative cases and 12 pending tests along with the four positive cases. Card encourages the community to continue to wear masks because it mainly protects other people.

Macomb Mayor Mike Inman said a new announcement from Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected soon regarding the stay-at-home order. Inman said the governor is looking at modifying and loosening some restrictions. He said experts believe the peak of the virus will now happen in early May.

In recent weeks, Inman has been doubled down on his call for people to take the stay-at-home order and CDC guidelines seriously after receiving several complaints from businesses and community members about unsafe behavior.

“There is every expectation that there are going to be more cases,” Inman said. “I would reiterate for everyone to please abide by the stay at home order and limit your time in public to times that are essential. I would strongly suggest, just as the CDC has suggested, to put on face masks when out in public to minimize the spread of the disease further. To that extent, I continue to receive calls for the public’s concern, particularly our large retail establishments becoming gathering and congregating areas for the general public. That’s not what they’re designed to do. They’re essential and open for essential business. It’s putting their employees at risk and it is putting those members of the public who insist on gathering inside those businesses for socializing and things like that. We’re not in compliance with the spirit of the governor’s order, in which says that’s not supposed to be happening. There’s an ongoing concern in the community that those businesses are doing as much as they possibly can. It’s not our intention to have to or want to engage in some sort of enforcement action, but we’re just simply asking people to limit their time in those essential businesses, get what they need, make the transactions, support the business and please get back to your residence.”

For service at the drive-thru station, patients should be at least 18 years or older and must pre-register. Officials said patients must call the MDH nurse triage hotline or their primary care provider before showing up. The phone number to the nurse hotline is 309-836-1715. All testing requires a referral by a physician or nurse practitioner. The hospital asks for no more than two people per vehicle. The station is open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. seven days a week.