For months, as the Coronavirus raged in other cities and countries, Baldwin County seemed insulated from the worst of the damage, said Thomas Hospital President Ormand Thompson.
Then, the number of cases in May began to climb. In July, they exploded.
“We’re monitoring it very closely,” Thompson said. “Clearly we were in a much better position in April and May with the volume but we are prepared. In anything like this you’re always concerned about where it is all going to end but we’ve got the tools in place to take care of our patients.”
The number of COVID-19 positive individuals in Baldwin County skyrocketed from handfuls in March and April to 1,114 on Thursday as dozens are confirmed positive each day.
At Thomas Hospital, the number of COVID-19 positive inpatients has steadily increased until this week when staff saw a record high number of patients. Due to the ever-changing nature of these numbers, Infirmary Health officials declined to give exact patient counts.
All COVID-19 patients are kept in specific units of the hospital, isolated from other patients and staff members. Staff members assigned to the COVID-19 unit also stay in the COVID-19 unit.
“I can’t say enough about our dedicated staff, they are unbelieveable in how professionally they go about caring for patients,” Thompson said. “It’s amazing to watch them. They’re committed to it. Our amazing medical staff has supported us through this.”
Thompson said the most difficult part of serving during a pandemic, which he calls hopefully a once in lifetime event, is the uncertainty of where this is going to end?
In early March the hospital had three goals he said: to protect patients, protect providers and communicate with all of them and with patients’ families.
He said testing for the virus initially took “longer than we would have preferred” as the hospital worked with area labs to have results within 24 hours.
Like other hospitals worldwide, doctors at Infirmary Health also rushed to find the right mix of medicines that would help patients, settling on Remdesivir, an antiviral medication developed to treat Ebola, that Thompson says “seems to be working” on area patients.
Now as Baldwin County enters what may be the most difficult stretch in the spread of the disease locally, Thompson says residents who want to help staff members can do so by helping to alleviate the spread of the virus.
That includes wearing masks in public.
“I think you should wear them. When I go to the local grocery store I wear one,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t hurt to wear one and it’s a good reminder to be more cognizant of touching things and of good hand hygiene.
“People have got to take it seriously, especially the younger population that may be asymptomatic,” Thompson said. “They’ve got to be really, really careful about who they come in contact with and practice social distancing.”
Thompson said the hospital’s fight against the disease will be bolstered by the addition of new testing capabilities arriving this week which yield COVID-19 test results within an hour. The new quick tests are crucial for critical need patients such as nursing home residents, providers and critical patients requiring procedures.