Coronavirus in rural communities: Levelland Leaders respond to affects of virus

Local News

LUBBOCK, Texas — As of Wednesday evening, 12 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Hockley County. One of the cases has resulted in a full recovery, while another resulted in death.

Regional Chief Medical Officer of Covenant Health, Dr. Craig Rhyne, said their Levelland hospital is one of the smaller hospitals within their system. Despite their size, however, he said medical staff have been proactive.

 “Their dedication and their performance in this epidemic has been nothing short of wonderful,” Rhyne said.

Rhyne said each rural hospital is different–equipped with different resources. The Levelland campus is limited in staff and rooms. However, some rural hospitals lack Intensive Care Units and/or ventilators.

“The medical staff there has done a beautiful job of determining which patients can stay at home in Levelland, which patients can stay in Levelland in an in-patient environment,” Rhyne said.

Additionally, Rhyne said the health care professionals have been prepared, knowing when it’s time to send people to Lubbock for further treatment.

For example, if a patient’s health is worsening and is in need of intubation or ventilators, the patient has a respiratory disease that is also worsening, or if the patient has an underlying medical condition that would make it difficult for recovery.

Not only does the coronavirus affect rural hospitals, it also affects local governments.

Hockley County Judge Sharla Baldridge said people have been following state protocols such as social distancing, however, reporting cases of the coronavirus is different than larger cities like Lubbock.

Hockley County does not have its own health department, instead receives their information from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The county is within District One.

“When you’re working 41 counties versus one entity, that makes the information come a little bit later sometimes,” Baldridge said.

Because of this, Baldridge said they are not able to release as much information like Lubbock can.

“There are private labs doing so much testing now so those results are getting reported delayed to them and so it’s a challenge for rural counties,” Baldridge said. “We’re not privy to as much information as possibly the city of Lubbock can is able to release. We’re not getting that.”

Baldridge said she has heard people’s concerns about why the county is not releasing so much information.

“The bottom line is we’re just not getting it, and secondly, those people are working round the clock to address all the counties, and we appreciate them,” Baldridge said.

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