National COVID uptick reflected in Midland, Ector counties

Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 11:37 PM CDT
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - COVID-19 cases have tripled in Midland and Ector counties over the last five weeks.

That trend is part of a national uptick in cases.

While these numbers are much lower than case numbers in the middle of the pandemic, they still caught the attention of local health experts.

Both counties have seen a rise in cases. They’ve increased from 26 in late July to 110 as of last Saturday. That’s a 323% increase, according to data from the Texas Department of Health Services.

Midland and Odessa saw low COVID numbers for most of the summer. This recent uptick might be attributed to a few things, said Chris Tovar, divisional director for Medical Center Hospital urgent care clinics.

“Predominantly why we’re starting to see the increase with school back in and people taking vacations,” Tovar said. “Which was nice to see, but the virus is not going away so we’ll probably see a good uptick as the winter months start to come.”

A more recent COVID variant called Eris is also highly contagious.

“We’re seeing the Eris variant now, which is.. both the Omicron, the Eris [are] similar in signs and symptoms, the transmission rate is very very high,” Tovar said.

Most cases experts are seeing are mild, but as always, the virus can impact vulnerable people like the elderly or people with underlying conditions.

“We’ve had one COVID in-patient [then] zero… back and forth. Last week we actually spiked up to having eight,” said Val Sparks, infection preventionist at Midland Memorial Hospital.

Sparks says an updated COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon.

“That is a bivalent vaccine, maybe covering the new strain,” Sparks said.

Bivalent means the vaccine creates immunity for multiple types of COVID.

As for national numbers, COVID hospitalizations increased by about 18% and deaths rose by about 21% as of Aug. 19 compared to the previous week.

Currently, people are mistaking COVID for allergies or the flu, according to Sylvia Marquez, charge nurse at MCH Urgent Care.

“If you’re having symptoms, test yourself because you definitely don’t want to be spreading it to other people. Any symptoms. Sore throat, fever [or] body aches,” Marquez said.

It’s also important to note many people test at home, so those numbers aren’t reported to the state.

“COVID’s not going to go away. It’s something that we’re going to continue to deal with just like we do flu each year. The good thing is that we do have the resources to be able to provide the vaccine,” said Brandy Garcia, director of Ector County Health Department.

To prevent transmission, wash your hands, avoid large crowds, get tested and wear a mask if you feel sick.