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In response to a startling rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Amarillo and Lubbock areas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Texas is sending additional medical resources to those areas of the state.
Experts blame social events like birthday parties and game day gatherings for the recent uptick, and they say there is widespread fatigue for following stringent public health guidelines. Abbott said in a news release Friday that the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Division of Emergency Management surged medical personnel, medical supplies and personal protective equipment to the Panhandle and South Plains areas to support hospitals.
“As the Amarillo and Lubbock communities see a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, the State of Texas is providing support to hospitals throughout these two regions," Abbott said. "The additional medical personnel, supplies, and PPE surged to the Panhandle and South Plains will help these communities care for patients and contain the spread of this virus."
DSHS has sent 171 medical personnel, 100 IV pumps, 56 ventilators and 25 oxygen concentrators to the region, according to the release. It said 100 more medical personnel are set to arrive by Sunday.
Last week, Abbott allowed Texas counties to reopen bars at 50% capacity if they choose. But bars in regions of the state with high COVID-19 hospitalizations — making up over 15% of hospital capacity — can’t reopen, he said.
Hospital leaders have said that while hospitals can increase bed capacity, the concern is having enough staff to handle a surge. Health experts worry rising COVID-19 hospitalizations along with flu season could further strain hospitals.
Lubbock has seen more COVID-19 hospitalizations than ever, and at least one hospital is full. It is home to Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University, and health officials say the increase in hospitalizations of mostly older residents has lagged a few weeks behind when they saw an uptick in infections among teenagers and young adults.
In Amarillo, representatives from the city’s two major hospitals told officials this week that their facilities were “stressed” by a high rate of viral spread in the community.
“Every morning this week, we have had patients waiting in our emergency room for a bed, meaning that we do not have the immediate capacity to get them into an inpatient bed,” said Dr. Brian Weis, chief medical officer at Northwest Texas Healthcare System, to city leaders.