Monument says hospital managing rising COVID numbers well

City and Monument Health officials in Spearfish say although cases are on the rise in Lawrence County, COVID-19 hospitalization is well in hand. Courtesy photo

SPEARFISH — Although Lawrence County has seen a more consistent rise in COVID-19 cases since the middle of summer, medical and city officials in Spearfish say the precautions taken by Black Hills communities earlier in the year have positioned them to deal with the recent uptick.

“Initially the closure of certain businesses within Spearfish was to help slow the spread so that hospitals and other agencies could obtain adequate PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies and the other necessary supplies to treat COVID-19. They have indicated that they are there and that further closures at this time are not recommended,” said Mike Harmon, city administrator for Spearfish.

“The goal early on was to flatten the curve and that happened,” added Thomas Worsley, president of Spearfish hospital and the Northern Hills market for Monument Health.

Both Harmon and Worsley said the city, hospital, and education boards have remained in consistent contact throughout the pandemic to stay aware of the ever-changing situations surrounding our community.

 “I’m very, very grateful to have those open lines of communication within our city,” Worsley said.

Worsley said that measures taken in the early days of the pandemic, before the virus had the opportunity to make its way to the Northern Hills, helped the healthcare network budget its supply stockpiles in preparation for this time of community spread, not just with COVID, but with the general flu season just on the horizon.

“I think the things that we’ve done have been effective, and we’re going to continue to do those’” he said. “They’re probably things that are going to help us with other things like flu season and RSV and some of the other viruses that tend to spread this time of year.”

Worsley explained that as our community moves into this next phase of the pandemic, where cold weather limits the use of outdoor space as an option for safe practices, Monument Health is looking at what it must do to continue operate at the level it currently is, although he wasn’t able to provide specifics at this time.  

“We’re finding that this is going to be with us for maybe a longer time horizon than what we had originally projected,” he said. “Given that that’s the case we’re looking at our resources and where we provide care.”

In the meantime, the city continues to adapt to new normalcy of non-normalcy.

“At this time we have taken a position to follow the governor’s direction in terms of how we keep our cities open, if we were to close certain aspects of our city, when we would do those,” Harmon said.

Recently Harmon announced that 10% of city staff had either been diagnosed with, or come into close contact with a positive COVID case. This prompted city officials to impose a mask mandate within city hall for any interaction in which social distancing could not be maintained. However, Harmon said there have been no talks on implementing such mandate or business restriction orders anywhere else in the city.

“The governor’s direction is to focus on hospitalization rates … that’s the metric that we will continue to look at unless council directs us differently,” he said. “Given the hospitalization rates that we’re seeing throughout the county, we’re in a very good position here in Spearfish.”

“With thresholds there’s always context and information and it changes so frequently from a day-to-day basis,” Worsley added.

In order to maintain the “very good position” that Spearfish is in, Worsley said there are some very basic things community members can be doing to keep the spread of the virus at bay.

“Always, always, always, when you’re in public, wear a mask,” Worsley said. “We know that there’s a lot of push-back from the community about masking, a lot of public areas where people are not doing that. Monument Health – we strongly support and advocate for masking as a public health strategy.”

Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the efficacy of mask wearing, Worsley said hand washing could play just as much a role in infection prevention as masks.

“The number of viruses, diseases, those kinds of things that can really be significantly reduced and thwarted by good hand hygiene is pretty incredible,” he said. “The safe precautions that we’re preaching to the community we’re trying to put into practice and lead by example ourselves.”

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