As COVID-19 hospitalizations surge across Texas, other areas are entering restrictions Lubbock has been under for months.
Patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus account for over 15% of all hospitalized patients in 18 of the 22 trauma service regions in Texas, according to the most recent data from Texas Health and Human Services. Sixteen of these regions have been above this mark for a week, which triggers state-mandated reopening roll backs.
The Houston area reported its seventh day of being over that 15% line on Tuesday. Austin's region has been over for two days. In each region in the state, at least 12% of total hospital patients have tested positive for the virus, according to the daily report from Texas HHS. Over 13,300 Texans are hospitalized with the coronavirus.
Regions that meet the criteria must limit most business’ capacity to 50% and halt elective medical procedures, as outlined in an executive order instated by Gov. Greg Abbott in October.
The 22-county region that includes Lubbock has been under these limits for 78 days as of Tuesday. More than 20% of hospital patients in the region are sick with COVID-19, with 244 patients in Lubbock hospitals. The City of Lubbock reported nine patients were waiting for a staffed bed Tuesday evening.
Covenant Health’s Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. Craig Rhyne said the hospital is now seeing patients infected over recent holidays.
“We’re starting to see that we’re paying a fairly dear price for that togetherness we all wanted,” Rhyne said.
Ten days after Christmas and now in the new year, Lubbock reported 312 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. The city also reported nine additional deaths attributed to the virus, with 584 total Lubbockites now dead from the disease.
Rhyne said amid the gloom, there is hope. The hospital system is starting to see positive results of treating coronavirus-positive patients with antibody therapies like remdesevir and bamlanivimab. They also continue to vaccinate healthcare workers, with many now receiving their second dose of the mRNA vaccine.
Lubbock hospitals have benefitted from hundreds of traveling nurses and physicians who have filled in when local workers have to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis. Those caregivers have been sent by the state, and may soon be needed elsewhere.
There are still concerns about staffing, Rhyne said. But with more caregivers back from COVID furlough and getting vaccinated, he hopes relief comes soon.
“We need the dominoes to fall in just the way we hope they will,” Rhyne said.
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