The COVID-19 triage tent that was erected in front of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital on April 2 was taken down on Monday having not housed any patients.
The tents were put in place at Mission Health facilities across the region for training purposes and to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients if the need arose. As of Tuesday, Macon County had just two confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two additional travel-related cases with ties to the county. There has been one death as a result of the novel coronavirus countywide.
“Fortunately, we have not yet seen widespread transmission of COVID-19 at this point in our community, or a surge in our hospitals,” said Kathy Guyette, Division Chief Nursing Executive of the North Carolina Division of Mission Health parent company HCA Healthcare. “As a result, over the next few weeks we will begin removing the tents from their current locations.”
The tent at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, which was placed outside the outpatient entrance to the hospital, was gone by mid-day Monday. Guyette pointed out that should the need arise in the future for the additional space provided by the tents, they can be reassembled to meet demand.
“Having the tents up and available has added greatly to our preparedness efforts, and these have been a source of security for our staff and the community,” Guyette said.
As of Tuesday, there were 9,142 confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus statewide. There have been 306 deaths attributed to the disease in North Carolina.
Regionally, Macon County has fared better than many of its peer counties in terms of COVID-19 cases thus far. Cherokee County had 16 cases and one death as of Tuesday, which led the seven westernmost North Carolina counties. Jackson County has 10 cases confirmed and zero deaths, while Haywood and Clay counties each had six confirmed cases and zero deaths.
While the triage tent being removed from the hospital grounds might be seen as a positive development, Mission Health officials advised the public to continue abiding by recommended social distancing procedures.
“While we have not needed the tents to date, this in no way should be interpreted as an endorsement of relaxing our social distancing measures,” William Hathaway, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Mission Health said in a written statement. “The stay home, stay safe guidance, and the community’s sacrifices related to it, have been hugely beneficial for our community and have meaningfully flattened the curve and quite honestly have saved lives. While we look forward to a more normal future, now is not the time to change our behaviors.”
Services set to restart
On Monday, Mission Health officials provided a plan to restart some services that were nixed during the system’s initial COVID-19 response.
In phase one of the plan, which will be implemented over the next 10 days, procedures that were deferred or cancelled due to COVID-19 will resume.
“Consistent with Gov. Roy Cooper and NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen’s guidance, we are carefully planning and undertaking a phased approach to begin care that focuses on the most critical and timely patients who have been waiting while we prioritized our services for COVID-19 patients,” Hathaway said.
Mission Health officials are also working with doctors across the region to better understand what guidance they need when their practices reopen in order to meet social distancing and COVID-19 symptom screening guidelines.
Parade rolls by
On Tuesday afternoon more than 30 vehicles lined the parking lot of the hospital for a special parade.
Residents of the Eckerd Living Center, a long-term care facility connected to the hospital, are under strict no-visitation guidelines. The parade was a way for families to see their loved ones and say hello from an appropriate social distance.
Many of the vehicles in the parade were decorated with personal messages, or the names of family members who wished to say hello but couldn’t attend the event.