Heather Lyda, registered nurse and nurse manager of PeaceHealth Cottage Grove Community Medical Center, positions the Coronavirus health alert sign right outside of the emergency department. When visiting the emergency room, staff only allows one patient or family member at a time, separates patients with Coronavirus symptoms, and no one — staff included — is allowed into the emergency room with a fever over 100.4. PHOTO PROVIDED/PEACEHEALTH

Like a calm before the storm, the emergency room has been a little quieter lately for nurse manager Heather Lyda. 

Projections this week indicate that — assuming full social distancing through May 2020 — COVID-19 hospital resource needs will peak on April 22 at five deaths a day in Oregon, according to data from The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent population health research center at the University of Washington Medicine.

With social restrictions in place and people hesitant to go out, Lyda said that The PeaceHealth Cottage Grove Community Medical Center’s emergency department is seeing “a dramatic decrease in volume” of patients. She said is a national trend hospitals see before the virus peaks.

Decreasing medical visits are being felt throughout the southern Willamette Valley. Due to low patient volumes, on Monday, April 13, PeaceHealth’s Dexter Clinic will offer routine in-person office visits on Mondays only, in addition to telephone visits Mondays through Thursdays until further notice. 

At the COVID-19 peak in Oregon, IHME indicates that 227 of the 2,657 beds and 47 of the 210 ICU beds would be needed, along with 40 ventilators. The study indicates that there will be 172 COVID-19 deaths projected by Aug. 4 in Oregon. 

Still weeks away from the projected peak in the state, the hospital is in full-force preparation for what it might experience. 

“We are learning more and more every day from other places that are being overwhelmed by the virus,” said Lyda, who is a 17-year-veteran at the hospital. “My role lately has been to do as much preparation as I can possibly do, and coming up with plans for if we have a lot of sick patients come at once.” 

When the outbreak numbers rise locally, “it is hard to predict what that will look like, but we’ve got equipment, personal protective equipment and personnel; we’ve already done a lot that will be enough to address what comes this way,” Lyda said.  

The emergency department is also planning for an uptick in cases with a phased hiring plan and is sourcing for extra nurses and support from medical experts to staff the hospital. 

“The disaster hasn’t even come to us yet,” Lyda said. “In that way, it is a blessing because we can thoughtfully prepare.”

The community has also stepped up with medical supplies and mask donations to the department, sweet moments in light of dark times, Lyda said. 

“It is a stressful time because people don’t know what to expect,” Lyda said. “Things are changing all the time. If you know anyone that is a healthcare worker, give extra support right now. That also goes for teachers.”

If you’re interested in donating materials, PeaceHealth is accepting items to help keep caregivers, providers and patients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, including personal protective equipment like gowns, gloves, face shields and masks, sanitization supplies and hand-sewn masks at two local locations.  

Springfield: RiverBend Annex drop-off site, 123 International Way, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Donors are asked to put items in their trunks/hatchbacks and remain in their vehicle. An attendant will unload the items. For questions, email [email protected] or call 541-222-7100.

Cottage Grove: Call Teresa Cowan at 541-942-1185, ext. 2, to make an appointment to drop off items at Cottage Grove Community Center, 700 E. Gibbs Ave.

Monetary donations to support PeaceHealth’s COVID-19 response are accepted at PeaceHealth.org/foundation or call 541-682-1380.

*** Date of peak, number of deaths updated Wednesday.