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Hastings hospital, fire department feel strain of rise in COVID cases

Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 6:20 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Hastings city and health leaders detailed Tuesday how the rising COVID cases and hospitalizations are impacting the area. Mary Lanning Healthcare and Hastings Fire and Rescue shared how they’ve been faced with extra challenges.

At Mary Lanning there are 21 COVID patients, two are on ventilators, and just one ICU bed is open. Hospital CEO Eric Barber said they have been able to keep up with the demand but if the rate of hospitalizations continues to grow it will cause some issues.

“Understanding the current trajectory is not sustainable for our local healthcare system and we are blessed with a fantastic medical staff that is full of experts,” Barber said.

With more people sick in the area, Hastings Fire and Rescue are seeing a high volume of calls. They have seen as many as five COVID related calls in a day. Currently 20 percent of the staff are in quarantine. The reduction in staffing has led to double shifts and even turning down mutual aid calls.

“We’ve had a game plan in place since day one of the pandemic to draw down on types of calls we are able to respond to if we are unable to get enough employees at work,” Fire Chief Brad Starling said. “Right now we are still able to get those employees at work; we’re just getting tired.”

Two firefighters who were exposed but tested negative are being pulled out of quarantine early to help.

“As first responders we are exempt from having to go into quarantine,” Chief Starling said. “However, it is highly encouraged that we leave our personnel in quarantine if our staff allows us to and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Those firefighters will be taking extra safety precautions. Chief Starling said they have seen almost all of their virus exposures happen in the last month and they occurred outside of work.

“When interacting with our patients or the public they are going to have less interaction. They would not be the primary care providers if we can at all avoid that,” Chief Starling said. “However we have full medical grade PPE, we have no PPE issues so we are confident even if they do have to make those contacts that we are fully protecting both our employees and the patients.”

They urge people to follow the new mask policy to help turn around the growing positivity trends. The mask policy goes into effect Thursday. People are urged to avoid the three C’s this week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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