NEW BLOOMFIELD — In light of the current spike in COVID-19 cases, Lake Regional Hospital has updated its visitor policy and its CEO has sent a message to the community that begins simply: "Things are bad."
In an open letter to the community, Lake Regional Health System CEO Dane Henry said six COVID patients have died in the hospital since July 1. That's the same number that died during the whole month of June, and only one died in May.
Henry says things are about to get even worse, citing a CDC COVID Hotspot Advisory which predicts a surge in the Lake area. The advisory says forecasted rates of infection in Miller, Morgan, and Camden Counties "could be three or more times higher in the coming weeks." Laclede and Pulaski Counties are also conspicuous because of their high transmission rates, and the CDC says it expects the same viral growth in those counties.
The spike is due to low vaccination rates, according to the CDC.
Accordingly, Lake Regional Hospital has updated its visitor policy. Beginning Friday, visitors will be asked a series of screening questions and will be required to wear a visitor's badge. Pharmacy customers will also be screened. Since so many people are seeking help in the emergency room, only one support person will be allowed with each ER patient.
Masks are required in all Lake Regional facilities regardless of vaccination status. Complete visitor guidelines can be found here.
Henry said he hopes the community will respect the changes. “Please understand that these rules provide protection — for you and us,” Henry said. “Unfortunately, our employees increasingly encounter individuals who do not understand the threat we are facing. We are communicating these changes now so that patients’ families will understand how important these restrictions are for keeping their loved ones safe.”
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services considers Miller, Morgan, and Camden Counties hotspots and is warning area healthcare providers to prepare for an increase in COVID cases on the heels of a large spike in southwest Missouri. An increase of three times or more is expected.
Henry urges everyone to get vaccinated. "We need you to get vaccinated now. If you haven’t already, please roll up your sleeve. Do it to protect yourself, your family and this community. COVID-19 vaccines are safe, free and readily available. Most importantly, they are the best protection against hospitalization and death."
COVID-19 testing is available at Lake Regional Express Care locations in Camdenton, Eldon, Lebanon, and Osage Beach. For more information, learn more here.
Lake Regional also offers weekday vaccination appointments at its seven primary care locations. Anyone can schedule a free vaccination. County health departments and many retail pharmacies also offer vaccines. For more information about the vaccine, click here.