JACKSON, Miss. (WTVA) - Mississippi’s emergency management chief indicated the state may have narrowed its focus on where to go in north Mississippi if extra hospital beds are needed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency executive director Greg Michel said there have been discussions with the president of Itawamba Community College (ICC) about using its Fulton campus.
Michel said during the state’s Monday afternoon coronavirus news conference the site would be ICC or somewhere close to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.
According to Michel, the site would not be for coronavirus patients but would provide step-down care. However, Gov. Tate Reeves added it appears the extra hospital beds will not likely be needed.
Several days ago, state leaders announced plans for two sites where additional hospital beds could be set up if Mississippi ran out of regular hospital beds. The site announced for south Mississippi was Camp Shelby south of Hattiesburg. The site for north Mississippi was to be determined.
ICC later released the following statement:
Itawamba Community College has a longstanding tradition of heeding the call to help others. Whether it be assisting a veteran to earn an associate’s degree after returning from war, training the next generation of healthcare providers or volunteering in its local communities.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact our world, ICC has been asked to provide significant assistance for North Mississippi. The College is working with the Governor’s Office, MEMA, MSDH and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other officials to transform a facility on the Fulton Campus into an official alternate care site, freeing up-to 100 hospital beds during the peak of the outbreak.
While still in the planning phase, the facility would serve as a contingency site only if local rural hospitals were to become inundated. The Mississippi State Department of Health would operate this alternative care site which would provide recovering patients a safe and comfortable setting while they are still being isolated and monitored. The facility was identified under the Federal Healthcare Resilience Task Force guidelines and would only be activated if the need arises.
All residence halls and facilities have been closed to the general public since March 6 as ICC observed Spring Break and then began addressing the COVID-19 spread which led all instruction to transition to online. The College is currently operating under an altered schedule allowing a de-densified office setting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while sanitizing takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends. All locations continue to be closed to the public for face-to-face interaction.
“We have the availability of a solitary residence hall and a large open space facility that can be used in this isolation setting,” said ICC President Dr. Jay Allen. “While this may not be an ideal situation, we are glad to assist the state in this historic time of need. It is our hope that the projections prove accurate and our alternate care site is never occupied, but we are prepared if the need arises.”
For the safety of ICC’s employees, the facility would not be accessed by College staff if the site is activated. It is the College’s priority not only to ensure the health and well-being of its community, but also that its students are able to complete their courses and advance their progress toward graduation, all while preparing contingencies to ensure the continued functioning of its operations. Currently, the activation of the alternate care site would not affect the current operational schedule of the College. Any facility that would be used will be completely sanitized post-activation.