A Tiny Hospital Struggles to Treat a Burst of Coronavirus Patients

“How do you explain it to family who can’t even be at the bedside and see how sick they are,” Dr. Wah said, “or say their goodbyes before their loved one gets shipped off to, literally, another state?”

Tom Wilson, a retired paramedic, got the news that his wife, Willa, 65, would be transferred to Christ Hospital in Cincinnati just as he was falling ill himself last month. Five weeks later she remains there on a ventilator, while Mr. Wilson, who was admitted to Margaret Mary for six days, is home alone.

“We wait on a call once a day from a doctor that tells us how she’s doing, and that’s about all the contact we have,” said Mr. Wilson, 65, who lives in tiny Metamora, Ind., 15 miles from Batesville. “It sucks.”

At Margaret Mary, he knew some of the people who cared for him and felt at home. “When my wife got transferred,” he said, “they came in and consoled me and we cried on each others’ shoulders.”

It is not yet clear why the Indiana counties that Margaret Mary serves, Franklin and Ripley, with a combined population of just over 40,000, were hit so hard by the virus, with a combined 163 cases and 10 deaths to date. An adjacent county, Decatur, has an even higher rate of infection, with 155 cases and 13 deaths.

Unlike rural hot spots in Idaho, Utah and Colorado, which have large ski resorts that draw visitors from all over, the region has little tourism. Batesville is, however, just off busy Interstate 74, between Cincinnati and Indianapolis. And it has two large manufacturers, a casket company that has been there for more than a century and a medical supplier that makes hospital beds, which draw workers and visitors from outside the immediate area, including China, where the virus originated.

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