Health officials: Amarillo area seeing another spike in COVID-19 cases

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Local health officials said Thursday the Amarillo area is seeing another spike in COVID-19 cases.

With between about 50 and 100 new cases in our area daily for more than two weeks, Texas Tech Physicians Infectious Disease Specialist and Public Health Authority, Scott Milton, M.D., said he is concerned.

“My perspective, it is nowhere near normal,” Dr. Milton said. “You know, my perspective is that we have clearly documented general wide community spread, we have a persistent burden on our hospitals, we have, on average, probably about a 10% mortality rate, once people get admitted with COVID. In our hospitals, about 10% of them, don’t make it.”

Right now the Amarillo area’s COVID-19 hospitalization rate is at just under 12%, even more concerning to Dr. Milton as we edge closer to the 15% limit set by Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas).

“So, this is not what I would consider normal. I think that people are becoming complacent, or they’re becoming fatigued at trying to do the things that we know, help prevent the transmission of this, which is social distancing, and wearing a mask,” Dr. Milton said. “And I think that’s the main problem is what we’re seeing, is just that where people are fatigued by it, and but it, but it is very, very alive and very present in our community and the numbers prove that.”

The chief medical officers at Amarillo hospitals said they are seeing the strain of this new resurgence of coronavirus cases.

“Today, we actually are up to 56 patients in the hospital confirmed and that number exceeds our previous peak back in early may have 54 confirmed cases in house,” Chief Medical Office at BSA Hospital, Michael Lamanteer, M.D., said.

Northwest Texas Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Brian Weis, M.D., had worries.

“Both hospitals have been running essentially almost a close to maximum capacity for the last couple weeks and the biggest concerns are the critical care units. That’s a precious resource, both in terms of specialized nurse staffing and, and those rooms and ventilators,” Dr. Weis said. “And so, that’s the thing is I think as the numbers increase, the concern is we’re going to start butting up against our true maximum capacity for critical care units.”

At BSA, Dr. Lamanteer said there are stresses in addition to COVID-19 patients as well.

“We have non-COVID patients, and we’re very busy as a result of both of those patient populations, with about 330 patients in the hospitals starting this morning,” Dr. Lamanteer said Thursday afternoon. “With that type of volume, we start to get into challenges with staffing beds with our nurses, we start to have to look to alternative sources for staffing. And certainly looking at the composition of ICU versus non-ICU beds needed. It also many times has an impact on how we’re handling and managing elective cases.”

For that reason, both Dr. Lamanteer and Dr. Weis said their respective hospitals continue to meet about surge plans if needed.

Dr. Milton said we have to do our best to stop the spread until we get an effective vaccine.

“What’s really tragic is to hear these stories about how people get complacent, and give it to someone they love, and they die, or they get hospitalized,” Dr. Milton added. “I do think that this is eventually going to be over. It’ll be behind us but let’s just try to make it easier on ourselves.”

Making it easier on ourselves, Dr. Milton said, sounds much like the advice we have heard since February regarding this pandemic.

“The only thing that we know that can help reduce the transmission of this and decrease the burden on our hospitals, is to practice social distancing, is to wear a mask, is to realize that if you are sick, you shouldn’t go out to wash your hands,” Dr. Milton added. “And, and it’s those things that we need to repeat over and over.”

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