ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar)- Medical Center Hospital held an emergency news conference this evening regarding the current patient load, which has now reached a critical level unseen in years.

“We have reached what we believe to be max capacity,” said MCH CEO Russell Tippin. “We are here tonight to sound the alarm…this is the most dire mode since COVID started.”

While not all those currently hospitalized are there for complications related to coronavirus, the high COVID-19 census is not helping matters.

According to Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons, there are many people in the emergency room now who are testing for COVID, and may require inpatient hospitalization.

MCH is asking the community to avoid going to the ER unless it is a true emergency. While they will not turn anyone away, for the next 24 to 48 hours, MCH is asking those in need of minor care to visit their family doctor or one of the urgent care centers in the area.

“We are asking the community to use extreme caution and make sure that the reason you are going to the ER is indeed an extreme emergency,” Tippin said. “We will not turn anybody away, but we really need our community to be mindful of what we’re going through at this very moment. Medical Center Hospital is full.”

We do need everyone’s assistance in coming to the hospital for your true urgent, emergent things. Anything that could be seen in a doctor (office) or clinic, we can’t stress enough to go to the urgent cares as well as your own private physician. We just need a little bit of a break,” said Timmons.

So full in fact, that hospital staff is talking about the possibility of tents in the parking lot if things continue heading in the this direction.

“If we don’t get the assistance from the community, you’re quickly going to see tents in our parking lot, we are headed in that direction rapidly,” Timmons said. “By the time we hit that 95 number (in-patient COVID-19 cases), we’re probably going to need those tents just because of bed space.”

Which leaves the hospital facing another dilemma, staffing. The hospital is expecting to see nurses provided by the state by Wednesday, but according to Timmons, that won’t be enough. The hospital needs another 25-30 nurses to meet the current demand.

Aside from avoiding the ER unless facing an extreme emergency, MCH staff is again asking the community to wear masks, avoid large groups, and wash your hands.