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Ayoub: We can curb the current spike in COVID-19

The following are answers to questions in connection to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Walworth County and the surrounding area.
The information was provided by Mobridge Regional Hospital CEO John Ayoub.

Is the hospital set up to handle COVID-19 positive patients?
Yes, the hospital is physically prepared to accommodate positive patients with a separated, negative air pressure unit as well as air-purifying air handlers and HEPA filtration. The staff are prepared, with personal protective equipment and specialized protocols, and we have been able to give courses of Remdesivir and convalescent plasma. We have had positive patients in the hospital for many weeks now and, as always, our staff provides high-quality healthcare services in a compassionate and professional manner.
Does the organization feel the effects of the increased positivity rate in the community?
Absolutely. Our clinics, urgent care, and hospital have all seen an increase in patient volumes, a great deal of which are directly attributable to COVID-19. We ask that the community remain patient as some days we are extremely busy and have to triage patients to care for those with the most immediate need. If you are requesting a test, but your symptoms are not that severe, you may be asked to come back the next day. We are dealing with a shortage of supplies and testing reagents, as is the rest of the world, but are ensuring that everyone who needs a test gets one. We also have to make the decision as to whose test gets run in-house and whose test gets sent off to a national laboratory; there is just not enough capacity internally to handle all of the needed testing. In-house tests and sent out tests are both good, the ones we send out just take a little longer. Given the current shortage scenario, we are forced to exercise appropriate stewardship of our available resources. We cannot give a test to everyone who wants one, only those who need one.
The staff are also dealing with the effects of an increased positivity rate within the community like everyone else. We have an excellent staff that is competent and dedicated; they continue to provide exceptional care 24/7/365, even as they experience the same struggles that others are experiencing with illness, childcare concerns, and a fluid schooling situation. There is uncertainty on a daily basis with regards to staffing, but the team continues to rally around each other and coalesce around the greater good of caring for those who need it. I’m so proud to be associated with such wonderful women and men who give of themselves day-in and day-out. The situation would be greatly improved if we, as a community, were able to get our rates of new infection under control and decrease our total prevalence of COVID-19.

Why can’t I get a negative test and just go on with my life?
A lot of people struggle with this, so you’re not alone in thinking it. However, in most cases, a negative test is not a solution. If you have come into contact with somebody who is positive or you suspect that you may have contracted the illness, test results may not show a positive infection for many days after the initial exposure. Sometimes, it takes a while for the body to build up a large enough viral load to register a positive result in the laboratory equipment. The CDC and our state Department of Health as well as Mobridge Regional Hospital & Clinics do not recognize a negative test as an all clear. In most cases, a quarantine period of two weeks is still required. A negative test result may just mean that you are not showing at the moment, but may test positive days or even more than a week later. The organization is not in the practice of providing tests to people who want them to show to others to try to prove they should be allowed to do something, we just don’t have the supplies and staff for that. Negative tests are usually not enough to get out of quarantine, get back to work, or back to school. Clinical guidelines and science need to be followed and we cannot change the rules to accommodate individual wants. We strongly encourage business owners and administrators and boards of organizations not to set policies that require a negative test result for staff, students, or patrons; this is a set-up for failure and dissatisfaction.

How is our community doing with regards to infection rates?
Currently, there is an extremely high prevalence within our community and the state recognizes us as an area with Substantial community spread. Within Walworth County, our prevalence of infection is double the state rate on a per capita basis. Over the course of the last few weeks, there have been days where we have mirrored the state average for new cases and there have been days where we have been two, three, and even four times higher than the state’s worst day on a per capita basis. We encourage everyone to take precautions now to help get this back under control. Businesses and schools do not have to close, if we all do our part. Common sense and the CDC approved methodology for self-care and person-to-person interactions are relatively straightforward and easy to follow. If we all do our part, we can curb the current spike we have been seeing and set ourselves up to be much better prepared when flu season starts in earnest and the winter weather is upon us.

Has the Walworth County Community Health/Home Health/WIC department moved out of the hospital?
Yes, they are now located downtown behind the Rustic Inn, just off of Main Street at 111 East 2nd Street in Mobridge. While we’ve been having a good deal of success utilizing our tent and doing drive-through clinics, we understand that this is not a long-term solution to get us through the winter. As the weather gets worse and the temperatures drop, we need to have an alternative to continue to provide high-quality care to those who need it. To this end, we have taken steps to move this department out of the hospital to repurpose that space as a clinic for people who are sick with COVID-like symptoms. It will allow us to have a separate clinic space that is self-contained and on a different air handler than the rest of the building and allow us to continue seeing well-visits and chronic care patients without commingling those who are showing symptoms and those who are not. Registration and clinic visits will all be available in this new space, which will also allow us to keep our staff as healthy as possible as we continue to serve our patients and community.

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