Lubbock ‘dangerously close’ to being shut down by governor as hospitals fill with COVID patients

Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 9:49 AM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Chief Medical Officer of Covenant Health, Dr. Craig Rhyne, says Lubbock is dangerously close to being shut down by the governor as our percentage of hospitalized COVID patients approaches 15 percent.

Leaders from Covenant and UMC offered warnings about the number of cases and the capacity of Lubbock hospitals during the city’s news conference on Thursday morning.

“Once that percentage of hospitalized patients reaches 15 percent of all hospitalized patients being COVID positive, the governor will probably shut things down in terms of numbers of cases, elective cases that we can do, restaurants, bars, gyms,” Rhyne said.

“He will shut things back down and that’s what Mr. Taylor is talking about. We don’t want the economy shut down again. But that is absolutely dependent on us keeping our caseload below that 15 percent and we’re dangerously close. We’re at about 13.3 this morning, as a TSA for that 13.3 of hospitalization percentage on COVID-19, so we’re dangerously close to being on the shutdown list to the governor’s office,” Rhyne said.

“So, by doing the things that the mayor is asking us to do, and taking the steps that we know are effective, we can stay off that list and we can ride that balance beam between having the economy shut down again and be absolutely overwhelmed with COVID cases than we can deal with,” Rhyne said.

Rhyne was joined by Dr. Mike Ragain, Chief Medical Officer of UMC. Both hospital leaders talked about the number of beds at each respective hospital and the staffing troubles they’re having due to COVID-19.

“There are five different things that happened, that peaked out this week: the number of cases we had a record number of, as Katherine said, in our hospital, we had a record number of COVID admissions. We also had a record number of COVID patients in the ICU. We hit a record number of employees that were out because of COVID. Dr. Rhyne said that we’re having providers, physicians, advanced practice professionals, come down with a virus. That’s true across the medical community. And so we’re very challenged in terms of the volumes of patients, and we’re worried about how that goes. Every day we send a patient home, we put a patient in that bed right back behind them, just constantly turning over those rooms because we’re maxed out, think both hospitals are maxed out on patient volume,” Ragain said.

Dr. Ragain talked about the patient bed count and the confusion about the total number of beds:

“That bed count includes beds that are designated for specific patient populations. So I’ll give you a good example, and there are a number of them. Newborn nursery, or NICU neonatal intensive care units. Those beds are reserved for children- neonates, infants, and so on. So you can’t put an adult in those beds.”

“So our metric of how [full we are], how many patients in the morning are waiting for a bed from the emergency room. So you get admitted from the emergency room and you’re having to wait in the emergency room for a bed to open. And every day, we have patients waiting.”

“Today I think we had about 12 patients waiting for a bed. So our usable bed capacity for COVID or non-COVID is very full. There was some mention about patients leaving the region to go to the places, not from our hospitals, but other rural hospitals, are trying to send patients to us. We don’t have space. They’re having to go on to some other place, maybe Dallas, maybe somewhere outside the area. And so we’re full. The numbers don’t add up because there have been reserved for specific patient populations,” Ragain said.

On Wednesday, officials with the Lubbock Health Department reported 311 new COVID-19 cases and another three deaths.

“This is way too many cases for a community our size,” said Katherine Wells, MPH, Director of Public Health.

Wells said there has been a spread in nursing homes, leading to an increase in the number of deaths.

She said the main sources of the spread is coming from large parties and celebrations and gatherings, and when people are “hanging out.” There’s also a danger from caretakers not wearing their masks and from people who are not following the advice of their physicians. People who should be under quarantine are not staying home.

Dr. Ron Cook, Local Health Authority, reminds people to wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, and get your flu shot. Those are the things that will keep you safe, he said.

Hospital officials and the city of Lubbock leaders urging everyone to stay diligent in practicing guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The message to the public is: I know you’re sick and tired. I know that’s the case. Everybody’s tired of this. We want to just make it go away. But right now is not the time to stop doing the things we’ve been asking you to do to stop the spread of this deadly disease. So please, please do what Dr. Cook and Katherine are telling you. Keep your guard up. Wear your masks. socially distance. Be socially responsible,” Dr. Rhyne said.

"It’s not just about the bed capacity, but it’s about the number of doctors and nurses that continue to be available to take care of the patients in those beds. “If we continue this upward trend, we’re going to run out not only of beds, we’re going to run out of caregivers to take care of the people affected by this pandemic,” Dr. Ragain said.

“We’re maxed out. I think both hospitals are maxed out on patient volume,” Rhyne said. “We need your help.”

The news conference took place at Citizen’s Tower, the first in-person news conference in months.

Panelists for the news conference included Katherine Wells, MPH, Director of Public Health, Dr. Ron Cook, Local Health Authority, Dr. Mike Ragain, Chief Medical Officer of UMC, Dr. Craig Rhyne, Chief Medical Officer of Covenant Health, Robert Taylor, Lubbock Economic Recovery Taskforce, and Mayor Dan Pope.

On Oct. 15, the City of Lubbock confirmed 311 new cases of Coronavirus, 220 recoveries, and three additional deaths. The total number of cases in Lubbock County is 14,675: 2,005 active, 12,518 listed as recovered, and 152 deaths.

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