Amarillo hospital leaders: COVID cases declining, hospitalizations remain high

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — On Wednesday, Amarillo hospital leaders said the area has seen a steady decline in coronavirus cases, but hospitalizations are not dropping as quickly.

During Wednesday’s City of Amarillo COVID-19 briefing, Chief Medical Officers at BSA Health System and Northwest Texas Healthcare System, Dr. Michael Lamanteer and Dr. Brian Weis, attributed the decrease in cases to immunity from vaccinations and infections.

“I think that that the combination of vaccination, native infection, hitting a little bit greater of a saturation point is helping us with virus burnout to a degree,” said Dr. Lamanteer.

Dr. Weis said while we have gotten past some of the key holidays where more new infections could pop up, it is tough to tell where we are with this surge.

He said last week they were on a call with Public Health Authority Dr. Todd Bell, saying, “He thought maybe we were actually hitting a somewhat of a herd immunity between people who are vaccinated and the people who have incurred the virus and then [got] well of it. So it’s hard to tell but Dr. Bell seems to suggest that maybe we’ve hit that point where the virus is just kind of burning out in the community.”

Dr. Lamanteer said while numbers are down, they are not down dramatically.

“In other words, we still have a large number of patients hospitalized in our city, you know, 53 here, 40 some at Northwest, that’s almost 100 patients hospitalized,” he said. “So, I don’t want to over-exaggerate the decline. Very happy about it and I think it is a significant decline. But let’s, let’s make sure we’re still being very careful to understand where we are here.”

He continued, noting low vaccination rates in the Amarillo area and across the state, “That’s a problem if you start thinking about predicting where we could be here in the next couple of months. That’s why we’re continuing, all of us on this panel, to encourage vaccination because we know that’s the best way to prevent hospitalizations.”

Dr. Weis also said hospitalizations are not decreasing as quickly as cases because of long-stay COVID patients.

“Unfortunately COVID patients, particularly the ones in the ICU, their length of stay can be weeks if not months in duration. So unfortunately these patients are admitted they stick for a while and so that’s part of it,” said Dr. Weis. “I think we’re still seeing patients in Northwest that have been with us for a while and unfortunately will continue to be with us for a little while. Just because of how sick they’re getting.”

He said they are trying to bring in some patients, especially those who are critically ill, from around the region. However, the length of stay for sick COVID patients makes it more difficult.

Data for both Potter and Randall counties show a steady decrease in new cases from this time last month. Meanwhile, the vaccination rate for those 12 and older with at least one dose is at 55.25% in Potter, and 53.6% in Randall County.

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