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Southwest Health reports lower hospital volume as omicron cases wane

Southwest Health System hosted a Facebook Live presentation Wednesday evening to discuss waning omicron and hospital virus statistics.
Hospital officials remain cautious despite lull

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 subsides and hospitals statewide conclude crisis care protocol, Southwest Health System hosted the latest in its series of weekly virus updates Wednesday evening on Facebook Live.

Marc Meyer, director of pharmacy services and infection control, and Meghan Higman, director of inpatient services and education, presented data and answered submitted questions from the public.

They reported lower virus numbers and hospital volumes but cautioned residents to wait a few weeks before completely relaxing masking and other safety protocols.

Among the statistics introduced were in-house COVID-19 positivity rates, which have dropped from 35% to 23%.

Comparatively, between the “lull” of the alpha and delta variants, the hospital experienced about a 6% to 7% positivity rate, and a 9% positivity rate in September before delta, Meyer said.

Meyer said that without the presence of any dominant variants 10% or lower in-house and 5% or lower county positivity rates were more stable targets. The 14-day countywide test positivity rate was 19% Thursday, according to The New York Times.

In Montezuma County, there were 113 new cases between Feb. 10 and Thursday, a decrease from the previous week’s 203 new cases – a nearly 56% drop, according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data.

Since the start of the pandemic, 26 Montezuma County residents have died because of COVID-19, and 65 have died with the virus in their system, according to CDPHE.

Hospital volumes have declined, Higman said.

Wednesday, Southwest Memorial had two COVID-19 inpatients – equivalent to the average number for the past two weeks, she said.

The average hospital stay was six days, and transfer times have dwindled to six to 10 hours, down from a day or longer, she said.

The emergency room saw a seven-day average of 33 visits per day – down from 45 to 55, Higman said.

The hospital has seen “a lot less COVID overall,” she said.

Meyer said the hospital has given out fewer test kits and masks this week and has 316 test kits in stock. The community received 1,006, and employees 298. He said they are effective for symptomatic cases.

Southwest has 7,800 KN-95 masks in stock, and has given away 4,800.

“I’m hoping people are feeling much better and aren’t getting sick with COVID symptoms as much as this decline starts,” Meyer said.

Higman said the hospital is now caring for children who are primarily sick with pneumonia or respiratory syncytial virus rather than COVID-19, after the hospital saw an increase in children hospitalized with the virus during the swell of the omicron variant.

“Don’t think that COVID is over yet. Give us a couple more weeks and let’s look at that data,” Meyer said. “I do think that going forward we’re going to have the pandemic for a while, and then as it moves to endemic, we think that you’ll still see pocketed outbreaks.”

He said he expects that trend to continue until treatments or long-term vaccines are developed.

“Hopefully, we’ll get some of our normal life back, but it’s still going to be clouded by COVID and coronaviruses for months to come,” Meyer said.

Higman agreed.

“We shared great news today with numbers and volumes and statistics, but it doesn’t mean it’s over, so I don’t want to have that false reassurance that it’s gone. But we are definitely sitting in a much better spot,” she said.

On Feb. 21, the hospital will transition to an appointment-based testing system.

The full presentation can be viewed here.