AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – In a grim Friday update, the City of Amarillo reported that 100% of COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in the area and on ventilators have not be vaccinated against the virus. This marked the first time since the weekly report began in late August that none of the ventilated patients had been noted as vaccinated.
As the Amarillo area remains in Alert Status Level ‘Red’ from its initial change in early August, COVID-19 cases continue to rise and the pandemic’s impacts continue to ripple through the country. Texas, Idaho, and Alabama have been reported among states seeing significant shortages in hospital space and staff, with only 326 total ICU beds available in the state of Texas on Thursday. Health workers in Amarillo and community leaders have continued to discuss exhaustion and staff shortages threatening the area’s healthcare infrastructure, asking even those not infected or at risk of COVID-19 to avoid dangerous activities or situations that could lead to needing to seek emergency medical care in the overrun facilities.
The warning came as the heavily stressed healthcare system has continued to struggle to serve patients in dire need. In a recent COVID-19 briefing to the community, BSA Healthcare System’s Dr. Lamanteer described it as the local hospitals being “in a very difficult situation” for not having the staffing and resources required to care for many waiting patients after numerous have been left waiting for days at a time in the ER, or in smaller hospitals while in need of a transfer to Amarillo’s better-equipped facilities.
The impact has been seen outside of COVID-19 as well, recently in a national story of an Alabama man dying of heart issues after more than 40 hospitals across three states were unable to accept him for treatment due to hospital capacity. Hospitals in other states are at “a breaking point” with the ongoing influx of patients.
Mayor Ginger Nelson of Amarillo mentioned during a Friday town hall with Senator Kel Seliger that Amarillo hospitals have been noted as seeing patients from as many as five other states in a continued attempt to care for critical patients of all varieties, while beds are in short supply in the area and completely unavailable elsewhere.
In further grim news, the Regeneron treatment that health leaders in the Amarillo area have credited as helping a number of the unvaccinated patients experiencing COVID-19 is also set to be in imminent short supply. Announced through the Midland Memorial Hospital Thursday, the federal government is expected to reduce Texas’ allocation of the treatment supply by half.
“Unfortunately, there’s a new development with regard to Regeneron,” said Chief Executive Officer Russell Meyers. “The federal government has recently reported that 70% of the Regeneron usage across the nation is happening in states that have low rates of vaccination, like Texas. In recognition of that, the federal government has claimed responsibility now for the distribution of Regeneron across the country with the intention of providing a more even distribution… reducing the percentage coming to the low vaccination states. Accordingly, here in the short term, Texas’ allocation has been cut in half. We don’t know when our next supply will be available.”
With COVID-19 cases collecting among Texas schools, accompanied by a surprising rise in cases of RSV among children, and flu season around the corner, health leaders continue to encourage vaccination against COVID-19 and mindful social distancing practices.