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story.lead_photo.caption Capital Region Medical Center shines in the last rays of sunlight on Wednesday evening. The hospital is asking people to take more precautions because the hospital has a "dire" COVID-19 situation. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

This article is free to all readers because it includes information important to public safety and health in our community.

The increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations in November is dire, and Capital Region Medical Center is asking the community to help slow the spread of the virus.

"The holidays are approaching, and we implore you to consider keeping holiday gatherings small — and ideally — to include only immediate family members," a CRMC statement said. "This is hard and not how we are used to celebrating, but the sacrifice may save lives — maybe the life of someone you love."

Since March, the hospital has conducted more than 22,000 COVID-19 tests at its drive-thru site. Data show that over the past 2 months, its positivity rate has dramatically risen — from about 11.7 percent in mid-August to about 30.1 percent at the end of October.

The hospital had 38 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday, said Lindsay Huhman, CRMC director of marketing.

"Caring for COVID-19 patients is certainly taking a mental, physical and spiritual toll on our care teams," Huhman said. "CRMC is cognizant of how difficult this crisis is and is providing ongoing support through our employee assistance program facilitated by the Center for Mental Wellness in addition to open forums and enhanced communication to address concerns of care staff."

At this time, the hospital has not experienced staff departing specifically because of the pandemic, she said.

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While Huhman did not give specific data about how many deaths of COVID-19 patients have occurred within the hospital, she said the hospital had more deaths in October than all the previous months of the pandemic.

"Our incident command teams have moved entire units to accommodate the growing number of COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization. We have established two dedicated COVID-19 units in addition to designating rooms on our progressive care unit and ICU rooms for the most critical patients," the statement said.

The dedicated COVID-19 units contain a total of 28 beds, but patients may also be housed in the progressive care unit, and the intensive care unit, Huhman said.

The hospital had four ventilators in use Wednesday. Ten more were available.

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The CRMC administration urges readers to:

  • Wear masks or face coverings when indoors and around people with whom you do not live.
  • Physically distance from others — keeping 6 feet apart.
  • Avoid large crowds, especially indoors, where masks are not being worn.
  • Wash you hands often.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

CRMC leadership meets every weekday to assess the situation and make adjustments as needed, according to the release. Teams report the numbers of ventilators, bilevel positive airway pressure machines, and Vapotherm machines (that deliver breathing gases through a process for heating and humidifying) that are used.

The hospital also monitors its supplies of personal protective equipment, blood and medications.

"We have more COVID patients to care for, while also working hard to keep our staff healthy," the statement said. "In the midst to this crisis, we are also faced with staffing shortages like most health care systems across the country."

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