BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) – Cox South Hospital in Springfield has re-opened the COVID-19 unit after a surge in new cases.

Nine patients are now being treated in intensive care. Four of those patients are Taney County residents.

CoxHealth President, Steve Edwards said he thinks their patient volume is going up in part because they get a bigger portion of the Branson patients.

“We do worry about Branson. A lot of elderly people live in Branson, and a lot of elderly tourists. So we do tend to have a little bit older patients from the Branson area, which are more vulnerable,” CoxHealth President Steve Edwards said.

Steve Edwards said there are other contributing factors.

“When we see that masking ordinances are eased, it gives us a sense that’s a factor. Also tourism and more people that are traveling more people out and about, those are risk factors too,” Edwards said.

Edwards said people with the virus are also seeking care later making it more difficult to treat them.

”I think part of it is the same reason people aren’t getting vaccinated and the same people aren’t wearing masks. They don’t have complete knowledge or trust about this disease, so they’re reluctant to go in,” Edwards said.

Taney County Health Department Director, Lisa Marshall said in an attempt to identify COVID-19 variants in Branson, the city participates in a sewer shed project to identify COVID-19 DNA in wastewater.

”With those sewer shed results it is not 100% conclusive that we’ve had a variant here in Taney County. However, it does point in that direction,” said Taney County Health Department Director Lisa Marshall.

Branson visitor Micaela Enriquez said she feels more comfortable visiting a busy tourist town after receiving both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

”It’s nice to know that things are kind of settling back down and we’re able to be back out, enjoy the weather, enjoy the shops and everything that it has to offer,” Micaela Enriquez said.

Health officials said the best defense against COVID-19 hospitalizations is through vaccinations.

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