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Cookeville Regional Pleads with Public to Take Precautions Against the Spread of COVID-19

Now nine months into the coronavirus pandemic and entering into flu season, Cookeville Regional Medical Center urges Upper Cumberland residents to take precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 amid concerns about hospital capacity.

“With family gatherings that take place during the holidays, we can expect to see some of the highest numbers of positive cases from the pandemic during this time of year,” said Paul Korth, Cookeville Regional CEO. “We need the public to take personal responsibility and practice the precautions that we’ve all talked about for months — wear a mask, socially distance and keep your social circles small.”

CRMC has continued to adapt and plan for a COVID-19 patient surge.

“We are often asked what our capacity is for COVID-19 patients, and it’s difficult to say what our capacity is due to the fact that it is highly variable from day to day – even hour to hour,” added Korth. “It is dependent on our resources and staff at any given time. I can say with certainty that we don’t have unlimited capacity. If we don’t continue to take steps to halt the spread, we will certainly have capacity issues. We certainly don’t want to get to the point that we don’t have the capacity to take in more patients as they get sick.”

The spread of COVID-19 is preventable through simple precautions.

“We can do it if we work together,” Korth said. “Remember, you may be contagious even if you aren’t showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Experts say you are contagious 48 hours prior to having symptoms.”

Cookeville Regional stands as ready as ever to safely care for patients of the Upper Cumberland with COVID-19 and other health concerns as long as there are no capacity issues due to a larger patient surge.

“In normal circumstances, we can take care of close to 300 patients a day here,” said Korth. “We typically run less than 220 a day.”

Hospital capacity includes 28 beds in the main ICU, with an additional 16 in cardiovascular ICU (CVICU) if needed for a higher level of care. Plans for nearing to full capacity include putting a hold on elective and other nonessential procedures to create additional space. Beyond that, CRMC can divert patients to other facilities for
care if beds are full.

Cookeville Regional is also taking numerous precautions to ensure that patients who don’t have COVID-19 are not being exposed to the virus. Patients who come to the ER with diagnosed or suspected COVID-19 are placed in isolation rooms, and staff begin using the policies and protocols in place for treating an infectious patient.

“If that patient then gets admitted to the medical center, we have certain floors and a certain part of our ICU that have been designated as COVID-19-only units,” said Korth.

Length of stay varies greatly for patients who are admitted, ranging from those who only stay 24-48 hours with oxygen therapy and steroid treatment that they are able to continue at home, to those who stay for many days, require a number of types of treatment, and are still not able to go home until several days after completing their
treatment course.

“People’s lungs tend to respond differently to the virus, and their immune systems respond differently, so it all just depends,” said Dr. Rebecca Sprouse, a CRMC hospitalist who has been very involved in the care of COVID-19 patients. “We take it person by person.”

Cookeville Regional has used many different types of treatment to fight COVID-19, and they have adapted quickly to the changing recommendations.

“What we’re finding works most reliably are oxygen and time, but basically all of the treatments you hear about in the news, we can get,” said Dr. Sprouse.

Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Sprouse and the staff at Cookeville Regional urge those who have COVID-19 or its symptoms not to wait to seek care.

“Our initial instructions to people to wait until they were short of breath to come to the hospital no longer apply,” said Dr. Sprouse. “Come to the hospital if you’re starting to get sick, and we can test you, we can start treating you sooner, we can get you on treatment that may make it so that you don’t get to the point where you’re short of breath and require hospitalization.”