AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Officials from the city of Amarillo, along with representatives from area hospitals, gathered for a “Public Health Update” Wednesday morning, keeping members of the community informed about the impact of the Omicron COVID-19 variant on the Amarillo region. 

This comes as the city of Amarillo is reporting a total of 59,737 COVID-19 cases throughout Potter and Randall counties, with 5,944 cases reported as active as of Wednesday, according to the Amarillo Alerts COVID-19 dashboard. The city is also reporting 52,760 COVID-19 recoveries and 1,033 COVID-19-related deaths. 

During the conference, officials from the city’s public health department, as well as doctors from the Amarillo VA Healthcare System, the BSA Health System and the Northwest Texas Healthcare System, spoke about various COVID-19-related topics, including the COVID-19 testing shortage, the specific symptoms of the Omicron variant as well as the number of hospital staff members that are in quarantine after being exposed to, or contracting, COVID-19. 

Brian Weis, the chief medical officer at the Northwest Texas Healthcare System, said that as of Wednesday, Northwest had 64 COVID-19 inpatients, of which 14 were reported as vaccinated. Out of the total COVID-19 patients, 27 were in the intensive care unit (ICU), 16 of which were on the ventilator. 

Northwest is also seeing a significant number of its staff isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. Weis said as of Wednesday, 77 staff members were in isolation protocols after testing positive for COVID-19, compared to 30 staff that were reported as being in isolation on Jan. 3. To cover for those vacancies, Northwest is reporting that it has 45 travel nurses from the Regional Advisory Council. The hospital is also in the midst of appealing to FEMA for a strike team, consisting of additional nurses, doctors and other medical staff. 

The ongoing staff situation is impacting Northwest’s ability to take care of patients. Weis said Northwest is not able to accept outside patients. As of Wednesday, 13 patients were waiting for care in Northwest’s emergency room while 43 patients out in the region were waiting for higher levels of care, half of which are COVID-19 patients. 

Michael Lamanteer, the chief medical officer at BSA, also said his hospital was “in the thick of another surge,” reporting that BSA had 101 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday. Out of the total, 36 of the COVID-19 patients were in the ICU and 28 were on a ventilator. As of Wednesday, BSA is also reporting that 80 staff members are in quarantine.

Lamanteer said that while patients reporting co-infection of influenza and COVID-19 have been low as of Wednesday, the majority of influenza diagnoses the hospital has seen have been of the “Flu A” strain. BSA has also had to delay and postpone various surgical procedures that are not urgent because of the ongoing hospital situation. 

Rodney Gonzalez, the chief medical officer of the Amarillo VA Healthcare System, said as of Wednesday, eight COVID-19 patients were in his hospital, one of which was reported as vaccinated. Out of the total, three of the patients were in the ICU. 

The doctors, as well as the medical professionals during the meeting, continued to stress the importance of vaccination, along with masking, social distancing, avoiding large group gatherings and staying home when you are sick, to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19 within the Amarillo community. Casie Stoughton, the city’s public health director, said the public health updates will continue on an as-needed basis.