COVID cases spike, cause staff shortages

COVID-19 cases continued to skyrocket in Johnson County this week, forcing employers to get creative as they tackle staffing shortages.

“We’ve tripled the number of COVID tests we’ve administered this week compared to two weeks ago,” said Miranda Camino, clinic director at the Family Medical Center. “And we are seeing a lot of patients who have a headache and sore throat and think they have a cold, and then they test positive for COVID.”

The newest COVID variant, omicron, has shown to cause less severe symptoms in the majority of cases. But when there is such a large number of people contracting the virus, a small percentage is still a large number who could end up in the hospital, said Kristina Duarte, Johnson County Healthcare Center infection preventionist.

“Typically, there’s a two- to three-week lag time between the peak and when we see hospitalizations,” she said. “Hopefully we can keep hospitalizations low as a result of COVID, but time will tell.”

Because omicron spreads so quickly, it has also handed area businesses another hurdle – severe staffing shortages.

“We have hovered between contingency and crisis staffing protocols recently because we’ve had so many staff members test positive,” Duarte said. “It’s spreading faster than anything I’ve seen before. We’ve had 30 positive employees since Jan. 1, and 20 of those provide direct care, so we’ve had to adjust and pull team members from other departments to make it work.”

Duarte said that while some have compared omicron symptoms to those of the common cold, we aren’t at a point in the pandemic where we can treat it the same.

“While the symptoms may be similar to a cold for some, we need to continue to take precautions to slow the spread,” she said. “Stay home if you are sick, and wear a mask if you have been exposed or in public places with high traffic.”

To help combat the spread of omicron, The Family Medical Center continues to offer COVID-19 vaccines and boosters every Tuesday. The vaccine remains highly effective at preventing hospitalizations due to COVID. Call 307-684-2228 to get on the schedule for a vaccine or booster.

Infusions and oral treatments for COVID-19 can be prescribed by your healthcare provider and are available to those who qualify at The Family Medical Center. The clinic offers daily appointments for evaluation by a medical provider. If you are high risk based on age and underlying health conditions, you may be eligible. The clinic asks that you make an appointment for an evaluation within the first five days of symptom onset.

“We receive these medications from the state based on our population,” Camino said. “So it’s important to note that these medications are administered based on supply and certain qualifications. Call us at the clinic, and we can determine the necessary steps.”

The Family Medical Center also offers COVID-19 testing (including curbside testing) Monday through Friday. Call us at 307-684-2228 to get on the schedule.

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