Published on June 25, 2021

Ozarks Healthcare seeing Impact from COVID-19 Case Increase; Doctors, Critical Care Team, and Administration urges Community to Get Vaccinated

As Missouri was announced the leading U.S. state with the most COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days earlier in the week and COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the state, Ozarks Healthcare is urging its community once again to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Friday, June 18, three COVID-19 patients were hospitalized at Ozarks Healthcare. That number doubled to six on Monday, June 21. While Ozarks Healthcare does not specifically test for the Delta variant, physicians expect this to be the source of the increase in hospitalizations in the health system.

“Within our own health system, we are seeing younger and unvaccinated patients come in with severe complications caused by COVID-19,” Dr. Kendell Clarkston, hospitalist at Ozarks Healthcare, said. “These numbers are not the same as our record numbers of hospitalizations, but we are trending upwards, closer to them every day.”

In April, less than ten patients tested positive for COVID-19 at Ozarks Healthcare. In May, nearly 20 patients tested positive for COVID-19. As of June 25, nearly 60 COVID-19 patients have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Ozarks has been declared to be approaching a “hotspot” status for COVID-19 and has also been the topic of many national news outlets over the past couple of weeks. Ozarks Healthcare has visited with outlets such as ABC News and Bloomberg about what its health system is experiencing. To avoid the increase in the severity of cases and long-term effects, hospital officials are asking its community to think of protecting loved ones and themselves when considering getting a vaccine.

“Nearly 100 percent of Ozarks Healthcare’s doctors are fully vaccinated,” Tom Keller, Ozarks Healthcare President and CEO, said. “They are worried about our community. COVID-19 has taken too many of our loved ones from us.”

Members of Ozarks Healthcare’s critical care team who have been on the frontlines since the beginning of the pandemic are especially asking those who are unvaccinated to take advantage of vaccines and their potential to save lives. Brook Keeling, RN, Ozarks Healthcare’s Critical Care Manager, said most patients who are hospitalized now with COVID-19 are severely ill and wish they would have gotten their vaccine.

“When the pandemic started in 2020, we didn’t have anything to help besides masking and handwashing,” Keeling said. “We have a defense now, and people are not using it. Most of the time when I have COVID-19 patients now, they are very sick. When they are still able to talk, they will tell you they would have wished they would have gotten their vaccine because they didn’t realize the severity of COVID-19.”

As many in Ozarks Healthcare’s region have taken to public platforms like social media expressing their skepticism and hesitancy to receive the vaccine, Ozarks Healthcare’s physicians and staff continue to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated now more than ever.

“Large-scale clinical studies have proven that COVID-19 vaccination prevented most people from getting COVID-19,” Dr. Clarkston said. “Some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get sick because no vaccine is 100% effective. These are called “vaccine breakthrough cases.” Even though a small percentage of fully vaccinated people will get sick, vaccination will protect most people from getting sick. There also is some evidence that vaccination may make illness less severe in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.”

A common reason many express for not getting vaccinated is already having contracted and recovered from COVID-19. However, physicians encourage everyone to get the vaccine, regardless of experiencing a past case.

“Current evidence suggests that reinfection with COVID-19 is uncommon in the months after initial infection, but may increase with time,” Dr. Clarkston said. “Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible—although rare—that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again. If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Another myth commonly often mistaken as truth regarding COVID-19 vaccines are their potential to negatively impact those who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant. Melynni Yarber, Ozarks Healthcare Pharmacy Manager, explains this is not the case.

“Based on how these vaccines work, they are unlikely to pose a risk for women who are or plan to become pregnant,” Yarber said. “There is the possibility of developing a fever following the second dose, which is experienced by ten to 15 percent of vaccine recipients. If you experience fever following vaccination you should take acetaminophen (Tylenol®). There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause female or male fertility problems that could lead to problems getting pregnant.”

With many cities and businesses resuming “normal” activities and more travel bans are being lifted for the summer months ahead, many are declaring COVID-19 to be over. Ozarks Healthcare is asking its community to collectively join together to get vaccinated and protect each other.

Vaccines are readily available Monday through Friday in Ozarks Healthcare’s Pharmacy located at 1211 Porter Wagoner Blvd. in Parkway Center, West Plains. COVID-19 vaccines are given at no cost. To schedule an appointment, please call 417-256-1793.

Ozarks Healthcare is a system of care encompassing primary care and specialty clinics, along with complete rehabilitation, behavioral healthcare, and home health services. While the 114-bed acute care hospital cares for more than 5,400 admissions, the entire health system has more than 364,000 patient visits annually in South Central Missouri and Northern Arkansas. For more information about Ozarks Healthcare, visit

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