WEB ONLY Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County building (copy)

ROCK SPRINGS — Members of the Wyoming National Guard are coming to Rock Springs to help staff at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County as they deal with COVID-19.

At Tuesday’s monthly board meeting, hospital CEO Irene Richardson told trustees that the National Guard would arrive on Friday, Dec. 4, to provide help to hospital staff. Guard members can provide nonmedical care and are expected to be helping with the hospital’s COVID-19 swabbing station. They are scheduled to stay until Dec. 16.

Trustees received a COVID-19 incident command team update from commander Kim White. The hospital intensive care unit had been caring for an average of five to six COVID-19 patients per day, White told trustees. As of Thursday, Dec. 3, the hospital was caring for seven COVID-19 patients.

White said that since Sweetwater County had reported more than 1,100 positive coronavirus cases in the past few weeks, hospitalizations were expected to go up. She reported that the hospital was continuing to work on expansion plans to be able to move patients out of the ICU when it became full.

As for vaccines, the hospital has ordered a freezer capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine. The freezer is on back order until the December, but White said that shouldn’t be a too big of an issue since the hospital doesn’t anticipate receiving vaccines before then. The Pfizer vaccine is currently awaiting emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. An application has been completed in order for the hospital to be able to receive the vaccine and give it to employees.

Hospital staff is working extremely hard and is tired and overwhelmed but doing a wonderful job, White said. Every department in the hospital is involved in the effort, she added. The arrival of the National Guard will help take some of the strain off of staff, White said.

Richardson called the hospital staff resilient and strong and said there aren’t enough words to thank them. She noted that Gov. Mark Gordon issued $10 million in CARES Act funds to help hospitals with additional staffing. Richardson said the money expires at end of December, but that, with help from the Wyoming Hospital Association, the hospital has been able to secure several positions for ICU staffing to help supplement and support local staff.

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