As state rollbacks hit region, Lubbock County not eyeing more COVID-19 restrictions

Oct 26, 2020

Lubbock's trauma service area, which includes 21 other counties, hit an important mark Sunday and is now considered a region with high COVID-19 related hospitalizations. 

For the past week, more than 15% of total hospitalized patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19. On Sunday, that percentage hovered just under 20%, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services

The state reports 309 hospital patients in Trauma Service Area B have tested positive for COVID-19. In the trauma service region, there are 349 available hospital beds and 17 available ICU beds. The region is at about 70% hospital capacity right now, considering totfal hospital patients in staffed beds, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

Dr. Craig Rhyne, chief medical officer for Covenant Health, recently said these data points don't give the full picture of what's happening in local facilities. He said staffing was becoming an issue as more healthcare workers are exposed to the virus, often outside of the hospital. 

“There are finite resources," Rhyne said. "There are total number of beds that we can staff. It’s not just about bed capacity that we have either at University Medical Center or Covenant Medical Center. It’s about the number of doctors and nurses that continues to be available on a daily basis to take care of the people who need it.”

Chief Medical Officer at UMC Health System Dr. Mike Ragain said his hospital is seeing a contstant stream of patients. 

“Everyday, we send a patient home and we put a patient right back in that bed behind them," Ragain said. "Just constantly turning over those rooms because we’re maxed out."

The state recently sent additional staff and supplies to help with Lubbock's surge in hospitalizations. 

The high rate of hospitalizations triggers reopening rollbacks for the region under an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott. Businesses that are operating at 75% capacity will cut back to 50%, bars will close and elective medical procedures will temporarily stop. 

For the rollbacks to end, the region will have to have COVID-19 hospitalizations below that 15% line for another seven straight days. Amarillo's trauma service region hit the same mark over the weekend. 

Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish addressed the rollbacks at Monday morning's county commissioners meeting. He said he had not yet heard from Abbott's office about what's next, but that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has ordered for bars to close. Many bars in Lubbock took advantage of a loophole that allows them to operate as a restaurant. 

He added that he hopes to not have to impose more restrictions beyond the state's requirements. He called recent measures instated by El Paso's local leaders "draconian." El Paso hospitals have reached maximum capacity. City and county leaders there have called for a 10 p.m. curfew, among other tighter measures, according to The Texas Tribune

Lubbock County Commisioner Gilbert Flores, who represents precinct three, asked Parrish to consider additional precautions before the region's COVID-19 situation worsens. 

In Lubbock, there are currently 2,693 people who have COVID-19. The city has recently reported some of the highest new daily counts since the beginning of the pandemic, with very few days of less than 200 newly-confirmed cases.