AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Coming amid the “meteoric rise” in COVID-19 cases in the Amarillo area, local hospitals have announced an emergency press conference for 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Representatives from Northwest Texas Healthcare System (NWTHS), BSA Hospital, the Thomas E. Creek VA Medical Center and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) are expected to advise the community on the severity of the current state of health in the area.
During the conference, speakers such as the City of Amarillo’s Public Health Authority Dr. Todd Bell and Doctors Brian Weis and Lamanteer, as well as others, are expected to talk over staffing shortages, bed shortages, and general health crises families in the area have been experiencing during the late summer.
As of Aug. 11, the Amarillo Area Hospitalization Rate (AHR) was noted at 10.9%, with an increase of 334 new cases of COVID-19 in the community. The Alert Status Level has been at ‘Orange’ since July 22, but Director of the Amarillo Public Health Department Casie Stoughton announced that Thursday, during the conference, Amarillo moved up to Status Level ‘Red’.
From Wednesday, the area’s hospitalization rate jumped up to 12.47%.
While there is no mandate towards mask-wearing from the government, public health officials both ardently encouraged the community to practice socially distancing, mask wearing, and to get vaccinated for COVID-19, especially with an increased number of children in ICU with the virus.
With severe staffing shortages and an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases in the community, Stoughton warned that “there is no Plan C” and that the community must act to contain the spread of the virus.
Dr. Todd Bell was supported by other health leaders in calling the latest surge “unprecedented”, noting that it is the highest rate of rising cases the community has yet seen, and the highest amount of cases currently that the community has faced since the beginning of 2021.
“…You have to get vaccinated now…” Bell advised the community, and insisted that the best, and currently only, way out of the throes of the latest COVID-19 surge is for the public ‘to be part of the solution’ through vaccination, social distancing, and hygiene.
“I’m scared. I’m very scared.” said Dr. Weis, his anxieties echoed by the other speakers. As of the time of the conference, Weiss reported that there were 20 patients waiting in the ER for service, with one person who was waited over 53 hours for care due to the hospital capacity and staffing shortage. The staffing issue is most important, according to Weis, as units have had to close due to a lack of personnel.
Weis also cited over 40 patients in the surrounding region waiting for beds in Amarillo hospitals for critical care services, half of which have been in need of ICU services, that have been unable to receive care. He also reported that ‘at all times’ in the hospital currently, there have been ‘five or six’ children patients with COVID-19, four of which are currently in the ICU.
Because of the severely stretched healthcare system, Weis asked the community to refrain from activities such as riding motorcycles or ATV’s, and not letting children jump on trampolines. There is no trauma center space for those in need of expedited care.
Dr. Lamanteer said that he was ‘nervous… anxious… highly frustrated’ over the situation, and began his comments by dispelling common myths around the pandemic. According to Lamanteer:
- ‘Wake up, get a clue,’ COVID-19 is not the flu, despite the misconception that the conditions are very similar
- The majority of COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalized are not vaccinated – later, he cited around 82% of the patients in BSA for COVID-19 have not been vaccinated for the virus
- The vaccine is not 100% effective, but Lamanteer nevertheless said that 95% is ‘extremely’ successful, noting that the flu vaccine has a far lower efficiency rating while still saving thousands of lives per year
Lamanteer went on to note that half of the COVID-19 patients in BSA are younger than 60. With many people of younger age and more varied health becoming infected with the added spread of the delta variant, and the staffing shortage, he said that prevention is the best way to help the community as a whole.
This story is developing. Check back with MyHighPlains.com for updates.