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As COVID-19 cases grow, hospital seeing older patients and longer stays

Posted at 6:17 PM, Oct 20, 2020

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WTVF) — Ginger Dickens isn't only seeing more COVID-19 patients at Maury Regional Medical Center, she's noticing they're older.

As the nurse manager of critical care at the hospital, Dickens says the patients seem to be requiring longer stays. Currently, there are about 50 COVID-19 patients, which is a new record for the hospital since the start of the pandemic.

The number of beds hasn't been a big issue since there are more than 250 available. However, the biggest impact could be felt in the ICU whereas of Tuesday, 25 of the 26 beds are filled. Dickens said 18 of them are for COVID-19 patients needing a ventilator.

"These are some of the most sick patients we've ever seen," Dickens told NewsChannel 5. "The work is not easy and it's hard to watch these patients in the ICU."

In his most recent Facebook daily briefing, Maury County mayor Andy Ogles said the hospitalization numbers should be viewed in perspective since Maury Regional serves nine counties. He also repeatedly said he won't issue a mask mandate and finds it unconstitutional. He prefers to leave the decision up to the citizens and publicly encourages them to wear masks through his briefings.

"Keep in mind it's a regional hospital, so we're serving nine counties, and at times catching overflow from Alabama," Ogles said.

However, Ogles admits the situation will get worse in the county before it gets better. Columbia mayor Chaz Molder, who tested positive for the virus in July, said it's not too late to issue a mask mandate and implores Governor Bill Lee to do so more now than ever. The governor extended an order that would allow counties to determine if they will require masks.

"The governor needed to exercise leadership by enforcing a statewide uniform mask mandate," he said.

While he said there's been a failure in state leadership, Molder also puts blame on himself.

"Looking back, I feel like I had failed. I’ll be the first to say it. I should have been vocal, I should have spoken out more and encouraged the community to wear a mask and because of that I’m now doubling down on wanting to sound the voice of reason that this is something that can be done and can be effective if done," Molder said. "I think all elected officials need to do some self-reflection."

The latest numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health reveal Tennessee hit another staggering record overnight for COVID-19 hospitalizations. The latest overnight numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health show there are now 1,259 people in Tennessee hospitals with confirmed cases of the virus. That's up 44% from the first of the month when there were just 873 hospitalized patients.

Hospitals in the Nashville area have also teamed up urging people to remain vigilant in their efforts to limit the spread of the virus by wearing masks, washing hands and staying socially distant. Over a two-week period, the hospitals have experienced a 40% increase in patients admitted for COVID-19.