LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Lubbock County reached an all time high this week. Still well below the total bed capacity of more than 1,000.
Administrators from both Covenant Health and University Medical Center say an increase in cases could lead to more infections in the vulnerable population and potentially to more deaths. Though the numbers are higher now, hospitals can still function.
If numbers get higher, there could be problems because hospitals are not just treating COVID patients.
“Please note, those are not just for COVID patients,” Dr. Ron Cook, Lubbock health authority, said during a Thursday news conference. “Those are for everything else that we must take care of.”
Hospitals still have to treat everyone around the area, not just COVID patients. And because Lubbock is a regional medical hub, there are people who need treatment from all over.
“You should look at it as a personal responsibility: my job is to take care of my kids, my parents. My job is to try not to get them sick,” Walt Cathey, CEO of Lubbock market at Covenant, said.
His hospital treats two-thirds of the COVID-ICU patients in the South Plains. Like UMC, no elective surgeries or other services are halted.
But if there is a surge in hospitalizations, service changes will have to be made to make room for more virus patients.
Dr. Mike Ragain, UMC’s chief medical officer, says as cases increase, his concern is mainly for the older and more vulnerable populations. For example, if there were to be an outbreak in a nursing home.
“That could easily fill up the ICUs pretty quickly,” Ragan said.
But an issue UMC is facing right now is more hospital staff are being tested positive with the virus.
“We’re having more employees out with COVID,” Ragain said. “Now, they’re not super ill, many of them, just like the general population.”
Most of those cases are also acquired from the community. Which is why both Cathey and Ragain says people should still stick to social distancing guidelines, so the number of hospitalized does not increase.
But the goal remains -- try to decrease the number of infections as best as possible.
“There’s a point in the marathon, when you hit the wall. You’re like, ‘will this ever be over?” Ragain said. “And I think at moments we have that, but by-and-large our morale is pretty strong.”