Coast has yet to see the worst of coronavirus, warns hospital officials

Local hospitals have PPE but are seeing strain on COVID-19 testing kits

Coast has yet to see the worst of coronavirus, warns hospital officials

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - As the number of COVID-19 cases on the Coast continue to rise, local hospitals are pleading with people to wear masks, socially distance, and isolate if you have symptoms.

The rising numbers aren’t just being seen in Mississippi. The head of the World Health Organization issued a dire warning Tuesday, saying “the worst is yet to come.” And he likely wasn’t even taking this weekend’s Independence Day celebrations into consideration.

After the spike in cases that followed Memorial Day and the relentless increase throughout June, local officials are also concerned.

“I tend to agree with the WHO that probably the forecast for July with the holidays and just typical summer activities, we’re probably going to continue to see a decent surge,” said Matt Walker, VP of Clinic Operations for Memorial Hospital at Gulfport. “With the relaxing of criteria and with COVID not really acting like the flu, we’ve seen the numbers increase.”

Positive rates have been in double digits as Memorial Hospital at Gulfport tested four times more people in June than May. July will likely be worse.

Medical officials had hoped that coronavirus would behave like the flu and numbers would be reduced in the summer. Instead, the opposite has happened. That is leaving medical facilities who had hoped to get a break, staying on full alert.

“Right now with the volumes doing what they’re doing, we’re maintaining 100 percent of everything right now in preparation really for what tomorrow may bring,” Walker said.

Walker said that Memorial Hospital is starting to see a strain on the supply of testing kits in part because of increased testing of patients returning for medical procedures that had been banned earlier in the pandemic. Some states have seen a shortage of testing kits and PPE for medical staff as numbers have surged over the summer. It is creating stress on the supply chain that is being felt nationwide.

“It’s put more of a stress on supply lines, and as far as our local area, we’re OK on PPE, but we could use a few more kits to better take care of the community,” he said.

Walker encouraged everyone to take the precautions that have been proven to be effective to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Social distancing and masking to the best of your ability is still the name of the game, even though this is a much more prolonged endeavor than anyone had initially hoped,” he said.

With another holiday weekend upcoming, Walker said they are ready for the worst.

“We’re open for whatever, next week after the holidays, whatever the community looks like when folks are done having fun, we’re here to help.”

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