MEMPHIS, Mo. (WGEM) -- Health officials in Scotland County issued a warning to community members Monday: the county's soaring positivity rate is putting even more pressure on a hospital that's approaching it's breaking point.
Health department administrator Lynette Vassholz said the county has changed the way it measures the positivity rate: taking the number of positive tests in the county and dividing it by the total number of tests performed on only Scotland County residents over the last 7 days.
Using that formula, she said the county's positivity rate is just under 50 percent, making it the second highest in the state as of last week.
"That is so bad," she said. "We have 5,000 people. We are number two above Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia and Springfield."
She said the new rate is more accurate and more concerning.
"What this does is put us into what they call an extreme risk criteria which the lowest point of that extreme risk criteria is 15 percent," Vassholz said.
Officials from both the health department and Scotland County Hospital said with upcoming events like Midnight Madness and Thanksgiving, people need to rethink their choices around social gatherings, mask wearing and hygiene.
"You're just increasing the risk by tenfold of passing it on to someone else," Vassholz said.
Officials from Scotland County Hospital said the hospital is already under an enormous amount of stress, even running out of equipment used to help patients with advanced symptoms.
"We've got plenty of oxygen and most patients need oxygen but if they continue to deteriorate they need positive pressure and we're limited in the number of bipaps, the machines that provide positive pressure," Dr. Jeff Davis said.
He said other pressing concerns include shrinking staff numbers and a growing inability to transfer COVID patients.
"Just this morning we found out Northeast Regional, Boone Hospital and Blessing don't have COVID beds for us to transfer into at this point in time," Davis said. "There's a waiting list at the University of Missouri and University of Iowa only has a couple of beds."
He said if the positivity rate continues to rise, the number of patients with advanced symptoms needing care will also go up.
When added to a lack of equipment, staff and transfer options, Davis said the hospital could be forced to provide sub-standard care.
"We would be required to take care of them the best we could which would be admit them to the hospital and provide high flow oxygen to them," he said. "But that may not be enough resources or equipment to help them survive."
Davis said while the hospital is trying to find more machines people need to work to lower the positivity rate by wearing masks, washing their hands and don't go out unless it's necessary.
Vassholz said people planning on celebrating Thanksgiving need to take serious precautions like not celebrating with people outside of their households, setting the table as far apart as possible and washing their hands thoroughly and often.