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Highland Community Hospital now offering one stop shop to fight COVID

Community COVID Care is being offered at Highland Community Hospital for the next 30 days, with help from the federal government and soon, medical professionals from out of state.

Highland Community Hospital Administrator Bryan Maxie said the aim of the program is to provide one location where residents in the area can be tested for COVID-19, receive the vaccine if they would like and if they test positive be provided the opportunity to receive monoclonal antibody infusions. There is no need to call for an appointment, residents can just drive up to the designated area.

The process starts by the resident driving up to the tent that is set up in the main parking lot off of Highland Parkway. Maxie asks that anyone interested in this service to use that entrance to keep the ER entrance clear. The patient is then tested and given a specified parking space to wait in their vehicle for results. Those who test negative will be given the opportunity to receive the vaccine if they choose.

If that person tests positive, they are asked if they would like to receive the antibody infusion. Those who opt for the antibody infusion are directed to a specific entrance to the hospital where they will wait for their turn to be treated, separate from the hospital’s general population. Maxie said the wait for antibody infusion is expected to take about an hour due to space availability. After the infusion is administered, the patient is observed by medical staff for an hour to ensure no complications arise. Statistics show that the sooner a person who tests positive for COVID receives the antibody infusion the better the results.

A trail run of the service started Tuesday, but Maxie said the process should be ironed out by Wednesday, and will be offered for 30 days, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. In the first hour of that first day, several people tested positive, and about 10 opted for the antibody infusion.

This move was made in an effort to curb the sudden spike of cases that has occurred in the past couple of weeks.

Maxie said recent stats show that on Aug. 11, there were 1,490 additional cases statewide, a figure that rose to 1,552 cases two days later on Aug. 13.

The impact of those additional cases may take days to be felt.

In response, the state of Mississippi designated 10 sites in the state to set up these care centers. Maxie said Pearl River County was selected as one of the sites due to its current designation as a COVID hotspot.

Maxie said that over the past weekend, Highland Community Hospital had 61 total patients in rooms, 20 percent of which were in the intensive care unit, not all of which have COVID. However, 50 patients who came to the hospital in that time did test positive for COVID, of which 90 percent were unvaccinated. He said those figures reflect a 30 to 40 percent increase in patients compared to a typical day.

Staffing shortage at the local hospital are also occurring, either because medical professionals leave for a higher paying travel nursing job, or that person had to be quarantined due to exposure or a positive test.

To ensure the local medical staff is not significantly impacted, FEMA is paying to bring in medical professionals from out of state. Two of those medical professionals are from Kentucky and are helping provide the antibody infusions.

In addition, about 900 nurses, respiratory therapists and technicians are expected to be brought into Mississippi from out of state to assist with the care of COVID patients. A portion of that total will be designated to Pearl River County and they are expected to arrive next week.