MURRAY — As the Calloway County Health Department announced the county’s 17th death related to COVID-19 Wednesday, Murray-Calloway County Hospital said it would shut its doors to visitors for the second time since the beginning of the pandemic.

CCHD said the person who died was a resident of Calloway County, and the department wishes to express condolences and sympathies to the family.  

In addition, CCHD received notification of 26 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, all of whom are residents of Calloway County. The total number of confirmed cases for Calloway County is now at 1,418, with 1,162 cases recovered, 229 isolated at home, 10 hospitalized and 17 deaths. Additional details will not be provided in order to respect their privacy, CCHD said.  

Since MCCH performs the majority of COVID testing in the county, CCHD periodically reports its latest calculated positivity rate. MCCH’s latest calculated positivity rate reported is 14.47% as of Nov. 16.

Starting today, MCCH is implementing a no-visitors policy. This comes after it had put some restrictions on visitors two weeks earlier. However, as Calloway County continues to be caught in the grip of its worst surge yet of the pandemic, CEO Jerry Penner said it became more and more obvious over the last few days that this would be a step that had to be made.

“We’re going to do this because we’re trying to protect the patients and protect the staff,” Penner said Wednesday morning after the hospital had decided to take this step. “As you are aware, this county has had quite a run in positivity rates and positive cases in the last week (Wednesday’s report of 26 new cases by CCHD took the county to 199) and our previous high had been 131, so it’s prevalent in our community.

“So we need to take the right steps and be a good leader in safety for our patients and staff and we’ll re-evaluate it from week to week.”

Penner, though, painted a very grim picture as far as how the pandemic is starting to affect not only MCCH but surrounding area facilities. A letter that is published in today’s Ledger & Times Health Beat (Page 5) was drafted a few days ago by several hospital CEOs and asks their communities to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, including the wearing of face masks, practicing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. Throughout the pandemic, many Americans have refused to follow these guidelines.

Penner spoke tough Wednesday, the day that, for the first time, CCHD reported the death of a Calloway patient for the third day in a row.

“The Purchase Area is a disaster right now,” he said of how most of the eight counties of the region not only are part of the statewide “Red Zone” of the counties with the worst amount of cases, four, including Calloway, are registering incidence rates of above 60 per every 100,000 people.

“To put it in perspective, there are four ‘major’ hospitals in the Purchase (including MCCH), and we are all in a very difficult situation because we do not have critical care beds available. I had two different CEOs last week that called me and said, ‘Hey! I’m out of critical care beds. Can you take patients from me? I’m not kidding … (Wednesday) I had one critical care bed open .. one!”

Penner said of the 27 critical care beds at MCCH, he said 12 or 13 were occupied by COVID-19 patients. He said, as of Wednesday morning, none of those patients required ventilators, but two were a step below that level.

“This goes back to what I’ve been saying about this being a math problem,” he said of how the coronavirus is only part of the problem in today’s health care. “I’m suspecting we have a lot of people who aren’t seeking medical care right now, or haven’t in the past, and what we’re seeing is more and more patients who are very, very sick when they get here.

“That’s why we’re closing down. This letter from the CEOs is apolitical. It has everything to do with resources and, I’m not kidding, it may come down to where we are rationing health care here in the Purchase Region and that is a terribly scary thought for me to consider.”

“Due to the sustained and accelerating increase of new COVID-19 cases, incidence rate and positivity in Calloway County, MCCH will be restricting visitors to the hospital, procedural areas and clinics,” MCCH said in a news release. “There will be limited exceptions for minors, end-of-life situations and those patients who need assistance from a personal care attendant. We are taking every precaution to continue to ensure that our patients can receive the care that they need in a safe environment. Please do not postpone necessary health care. In addition, when you are on campus at MCCH, we request you adhere to the guidelines to protect our patients and staff from exposure. During this time of critical community spread, we ask for your compliance and cooperation.”

This visitation policy does not apply to Spring Creek Health Care Nursing & Rehab or the Anna Mae Owen Residential Hospice House, MCCH said. The hospital’s physician clinic patients will enter through the Medical Arts Building West Wing and are requested to have no more than one personal care attendant only. If patients are able to come to their appointments alone, MCCH recommends they do so at this time.

Those needing COVID testing only should access Murray Medical Drive Thru clinic located off Ninth Street at the West Entrance. Individuals who want to be evaluated and are experiencing symptoms should visit the Murray Medical Associates Walk-In Clinic. For more information, call 270-753-0704.

Symptoms may include the following:

• Fever or chills

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Fatigue

• Muscle or body aches

• Headache

• New loss of taste or smell

• Sore throat

• Congestion or runny nose

• Nausea or vomiting

• Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to update this list as more is learned about COVID-19.

If you have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, MCCH advises that you call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

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