Cookeville Regional CEO Paul Korth said the holidays present a dangerous scenario for COVID-19.
“Just very concerned about rapid spread that has been happening over our region over the past few weeks and months,” Korth said. “And very fearful over this holiday season that if residents of the Upper Cumberland don’t social distance, wear a mask and protect themselves, we could see some really disturbing spikes in the next two to three weeks.”
Korth said the urgency goes further than Putnam County. With shopping and traveling, Korth said all counties should remain mindful of COVID precautions.
“Our surrounding communities come shop and eat and do social activities in Cookeville and Putnam County,” Korth said. “And we need those people to also be personally responsible and put a mask on when they are shopping and eating and doing things they are doing. Not only in Putnam County, but in the counties they are in.”
Cookeville Regional serves as a medical hub for the Upper Cumberland. Korth said with rising community numbers, hospital capacity could become an issue.
“We are just fearful that during the holiday season we are going to see a much larger spike than we have previously, and it is very concerning to us,” Korth said. “Because at some point and time, Cookeville Regional Medical Center and just like many other hospitals throughout the state, many hospitals throughout the United States, we may not have capacity. We may not be able to take care of some of these patients. And, it is going to be very difficult and very hard times if we do not try to flatten this curve.”
Korth said the hospital always faces staffing concerns around the holiday season, but the pandemic has increased that need.
“Anytime during the holiday season and also during the flu season, it is difficult to get staff,” Korth said. “(…) We constantly have that. We are constantly hiring new people and bringing new people on to help do that, but this year with the added pressures of the COVID-19 virus it is putting that much more of a damper and that much more hardship on facilities.”
Korth said one encouraging thing are the anticipated COVID vaccines. Korth said to focus on safe gatherings until the vaccines are available.