COVID-19 press conference ...

Local health care agencies and county leaders held a press conference Monday afternoon to ask for the community’s help in handling the growing number of COVID cases and emphasize the stress now being placed on the system.

PRINCETON — Local health care agencies and county leaders held a press conference Monday afternoon to ask for the community’s help in handling the growing number of COVID cases and emphasize the stress now being placed on the system.

Keith Gunnoe, director of the county’s Emergency Management Services, said they want the community to be aware of the current situation and how they can help.

The current surge has everyone from rescue squad personnel and the 911 center to hospital workers doing all they can to make sure all residents receive the care they need.

Karen Bowling, Princeton Community Hospital President and CEO, said anyone who comes to the hospital and needs a bed may have to wait in the Emergency Department because a bed may not be available.

“We will see COVID infections increase over the next few weeks,” she said of the prediction the surge may peak within the next month. “Many of these people will end up in the hospital. The majority of the patients who are hospitalized and in our ICU are unvaccinated.”

Bowling said a triage system is in place at the ER and some patients may be screened in an ambulance and stay in that bed until one is available in the ER.

“That is a very good way to triage until we determine what needs to be done wth that patient,” she said.

But that means the ambulance may not be available for another call.

The goal is to provide the needed care for all patients, she said, but there are times when all ICU beds in the state are full and when a bed becomes available it may not be at PCH.

“We are going to continue to take excellent care of our patients,” she said, and all workers are doing an excellent job. But the pandemic is not over and state statistics show record numbers of people in the hospitals, ICUs and on ventilators. “The best way you can help us is to go get vaccinated,” wear masks, avoid crowds and use basic mitigation measures.

Bowling urged everyone to avoid coming to the ER unless it is an acute illness.

Roger Topping, Mercer County Health Department Administrator, said the numbers of positive cases continue to soar, with more than 900 in August and September is on track to exceed that.

Linda Hutchens, director of the Bluestone Health System, said 254 COVID tests were administered last week and 124 of them were positive.

Stacey Hicks, president and CEO of the Princeton Rescue Squad, also asked residents not to call 911 unless it is a serious emergency.

Don’t call if you stub your toe, he said, adding that he is short on personnel and trying to hire EMS workers.

"Being transported by an ambulance to the ER does not put you at the front of the line once you get there," he said. “All you are going to do is tie up an ambulance that may be needed for a true emergency."

Hicks also said three of his emergency personnel recently caught COVID transporting patients and have to be quarantined.

“Help us out, put on a mask,” he said, adding that everyone should get vaccinated.

Gunnoe said all agencies are working closely together to do all they can, and the public can help by getting vaccinated and using mitigation measures.

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com.

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