A Springfield hospital is reopening a mobile unit outside the hospital as it tries to respond to high numbers of COVID-19 cases just as the flu season begins.

SPRINGFIELD — A Springfield hospital is reopening a mobile unit outside the hospital as it tries to respond to high numbers of COVID-19 cases just as the flu season begins.

Mercy Hospital in Springfield announced Wednesday that it has opened a respiratory unit inside trailers to provide initial care for COVID-19 and flu patients. The intent is to separate COVID-19 and flu patients from patients inside the hospital while also treating them more quickly, hospital officials said.

The decision comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations and confirmed cases continue to rise across the state. As of Tuesday, 1,527 people were hospitalized in Missouri with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the seven-day average was 1,484 hospitalizations, according to Missouri Health and Senior Services data.

On Wednesday, the state had confirmed 174,632 cases since the pandemic began, an increase of 1,915 from Tuesday. Missouri also has recorded 2,870 deaths, 32 more than Tuesday. 

Dave Dillon, a spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association, said he had not heard of other hospitals expanding capacity yet in response to increasing cases.

"At the current rate, we still don't have the demand for that resource," Dillon said Wednesday. "But it could certainly be an option for the future if it becomes necessary."

On Wednesday, Mercy Hospital in Springfield had 69 COVID-19 patients, the first time below 70 admissions in more than two weeks, The Springfield News-Leader reported. 

"When the pandemic began, we opened the trailers to assess patients for COVID-19 symptoms before they came into our Springfield ER," Craig McCoy, the president of Mercy Springfield Communities, said in a news release. "The hope (now) is that we can either directly admit patients to the hospital from there, or even better, treat and release them to go back home."