AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – The City of Amarillo briefed the community on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic at 11 a.m., Wednesday morning.

After noting the most recent COVID-19 Report Card data, the Amarillo Health Department’s Casie Stoughton noted that while the area is still considered under Status Level “Red” through GA 34 standards, the Area Hospitalization Rate was at around 12% – which means that Amarillo no longer qualifies as an area of high hospitalization. Stoughton expressed hope that in the coming weeks, the Amarillo area might be able to leave “Red” behind and shift to a less critical status level.

This comes in the wake of both hospitalizations locally beginning to slowly decrease, and also the neighboring New Mexico entering what is known as “Crisis Standards of Care” in its hospitals due to its own dramatic COVID-19 spike.

Meanwhile, Stoughton reported that the monoclonal antibody treatments have been a “great service’ in the community for those COVID-19 patients eligible, and other health leaders agreed that the treatments have likely played a great part in keeping the local hospital capacities to a manageable state. Stoughton encouraged eligible patients, those considered high-risk for serious complications due to COVID-19, to seek a referral through their doctors or the health department for an appointment to receive the infusion treatment.

Amarillo Public Health Authority Dr. Todd Bell noted that the downward trend in COVID-19 hospitalizations does exist in the area, even if it is slow. While he said colder weather bringing people indoors may slow the decrease further due to close-contact transmissions of the virus, he was still optimistic for the holiday season. Even so, he continued to advise everyone able to do so to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.

In further vaccination updates, Bell reported that the next few weeks could not only bring official authorization for COVID-19 booster shots through Moderna, but a review for a vaccine for children aged five to 11 against COVID-19. Good news, he said, as children have appeared to be at “significant risk” of contracting the delta variant of COVID-19, and spreading it even if they are asymptomatic. He encouraged parents to look into vaccinating their children once available.

The Northwest Texas Healthcare System reported 38 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday morning, the first time they have reported a number below 40 in around two months. 17 COVID-19 patients were reported to be in the ICU, 15 of whom are not vaccinated. Two COVID-19 patients were reported from the neo-natal unit, and one third of the hospital’s 22 ventilators in-use were noted as being used for COVID-19 patients. So far this month, Northwest said it has seen 10 COVID-19 deaths from patients.

Traveling staff are set to being leaving the area as contracts end in the beginning of November, but Bell expressed he hopes that the downward trend in hospitalized patients will somewhat match a decreased need for those contract workers.

Dr. Michael Lamanteer of the BSA Healthcare System reported 53 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday morning, again showing a slow decline since the middle of summer, and hopes that the decline will have a faster pace in the coming weeks. Lamanteer also reported 24 patients in the ICU, although 27 were in need of ICU care. Unfortunately, the extra ICU-level patients have remained in a separate unit as the hospital works to shuffle space and make room.

Lamanteer also reported one pediatric COVID-19 patient, and 20 of the COVID-19 ICU-level patients on ventilators. 81% of the COVID-19 patients in the hospital were not vaccinated.

Staffing has continued to be a challenge, according to Lamanteer, and the hospital system is working to plan for and adapt to the exit of RAC and contract healthcare workers.

Lamanteer, later on, also commented regarding the continued occasional requests from families and patients for COVID-19 treatment using Ivermectin. Although he noted it is at times used in other countries, Lamanteer went on to describe that only a few small testing groups in a latest study into the treatment were reported to be unbiased, and he remained firm in his stance that there is not enough clinical data to prove that Ivermectin is an effective therapeutic treatment for COVID-19.

Dr. Catherine Ewing of the Amarillo VA reported five COVID-19 patients hospitalized, with one patient on a ventilator.

Ewing went onto encourage the community to get flu shots, which she said are available at the VA during already-scheduled appointments and at the “Flu Fair” open from 8 a.m. through noon until Saturday. Veterans, Ewing said, and spouses will be able to get their flu shots at the event.

Further, Ewing announced a town hall to be held at 6 p.m. with Dr. Rodney Gonzalez on women’s health issues, and how the Amarillo VA may better serve the needs of women veterans in the community.