Health care workers in St. Charles battle latest increase in COVID cases


ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – Health care workers at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital – St. Charles call the ongoing battle against COVID-19 a roller coaster. They’ll see a dip in cases and then suddenly their COVID wing will be filled with patients.

Staff nurse Dana Fortmann believes some people have grown tired of taking precautions.

“With the flu season and holidays coming up and family gatherings, we just really want people to still take it seriously,” she said.

Dr. Alex Garza, incident commander for the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, called the latest increase in area hospitalizations alarming. This week, Garza said hospitalizations have reached levels not seen since May.

SSM Health St Joseph Hospital – St. Charles charge nurse Leslee Wagner said the effort to help COVID patients is both emotionally and physically draining. Health care workers are covered in PPE whenever treating patients in the COVID wing of the hospital. Visitors are not allowed.

“All they (patients) see is us in our full PPE and so, I think, that’s probably the most emotionally taxing part,” Wagner said.

Wagner and Fortmann call on everyone to do what they can to minimize the spread of COVID. They point out COVID patients can require extra attention because their conditions can change more rapidly than other patients. They say the fewer COVID patients they have, the more time they can spend with other patients.

Improvements in treatment strategies have led to better outcomes for COVID patients.

“We’ve seen a lot of people bounce back which is awesome,” Fortmann said.

Both nurses said they appreciate the support they’ve seen from the community.

“The best thank you would be keeping on your mask,” Wagner said.

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