LUBBOCK, TX — On Monday, the Lubbock-area Trauma Service Region hit a record 30.75 percent COVID-19 hospitalization rate, marking nearly two months of the region’s hospitalizations sitting above the governor’s 15 percent cutoff.
Health experts emphasized that “saturated” hospitals, overwhelmed with the surge of coronavirus patients, are in trouble, but that vaccines could reach Texas as soon as next week.
“We can only handle so many critical care patients … We’re full. We don’t want to get to the breaking point,” said Dr. Ron Cook, Lubbock health authority and Chief Health Officer at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Cook also said hospitals in Lubbock have had to turn away patients and send them to other regions due to the surge.
“We can’t absorb patients from the outlying communities, and these outlying communities are having to ship them to Colorado or to Amarillo,” Cook said.
However, it’s not just a matter of hospitals running out of beds — they’re also running out of doctors, nurses and staff to take care of the people in those beds. He said they’re catching the virus not from work but from home or in the community.
“Our staff at both hospitals are thin because they’ve been exposed [to the virus] or they’re actually sick,” Cook said.
However, help in the form of vaccines is coming soon. This week, the Centers for Disease Control is discussing the distribution of vaccines, and Cook expects vaccines in the state as early as next week.
It is up to the governor’s office to determine which regions across the state get the vaccines first, though Cook said Lubbock is high on that list.
Once vaccines arrive, they will go to frontline workers, followed by high-risk individuals in settings such as nursing homes, followed by the general public.
Until then, Cook urged Lubbock residents to keep following safety guidelines. He said it likely won’t be until Summer 2020 that 70 percent of the population will be vaccinated, the minimum requirement for herd immunity from the coronavirus.
“Until we get 70 percent of our people, our citizens vaccinated, we still need to be worried. That’s the only way we can slow this virus down,” Cook said.