LUBBOCK, Texas – Medical and political leaders in Lubbock sounded the alarm Thursday morning about the spread of COVID-19. They did so during a press conference at City Hall.
Dr. Craig Rhyne, Chief Medical Officer with Covenant Health, said as of Thursday, 13.3 percent of Lubbock area hospital patients were COVID positive.
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Dr. Rhyne said if more than 15 percent of patients in the Lubbock TSA (Trauma Service Area) are COVID positive for seven days in a row, the governor will begin issuing shutdown orders for the Lubbock area. (Use the video player below to see more. App users can CLICK here.)
“We’re dangerously close to being on the shutdown list in the governor’s office.” Rhyne said.
Rhyne said a shutdown would start with limits on elective surgeries. It would then move on to restaurants bars and gyms, Rhyne said. He also said it is possible to stay off the list by taking the right steps.
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Rhyne said Lubbock is running out of hospital beds and caregivers.
“We still have some room to flex,” said Dr. Rhyne. But doctors and nurses are exhausted, he said of Covenant Health.
“We might have to rely on reserves from the state but even that takes time,” Rhyne said.
Lubbock Health Authority, Dr. Ron Cook, said as more caregivers get sick, that even further reduces the capacity to respond.
University Medical Center said 25 to 30 percent of daily resources are devoted to COVID.
Dr. Mike Ragain with UMC said, “We’re full.” He said rural hospitals in the South Plains have been asking to transfer patients to Lubbock. The answer recently has been no. Those patients have been sent on to Dallas or other cities, Ragain said.
On Thursday morning, even before the press conference, the Texas College of Emergency Physicians announced that Dr. Juan Fitz, a well-known and long-serving emergency room physician in Lubbock, was in critical condition with COVID.
“… One of our own is currently in the ICU on a ventilator battling Covid-19,” TCEP said. “Please keep Juan in your thoughts and prayers as he continues his fight.”
Lubbock Health Director Katherine Wells said cases are not coming from places or events where masks and social distancing are used. Instead, they are coming when precautions are not taken.
Wells said people can slow the spread by taking all the same precautions that officials have talked about since March — wear a mask, wash hands, and socially distance.
Mayor Dan Pope reminded everyone that he once famously said, “Wear your damn mask.” He also said Lubbock can still have events safely such as Trunk or Treat. Pope said some of the safety plans larger events are required to submit for city approval have been very good.
Pope said businesses can operate and people can have events if proper precautions are taken.
The mayor’s challenger in the November 3 election, Stephen Sanders said, “There is no way on God’s green earth the people of Lubbock, their schools, their businesses and their livelihoods should once again be put under the boot of Mayor Dan Pope or by Govemor Abbott.”
“Lubbockites are doing everything they have been told to do by health officials,” Sanders said. “The sick should stay home, and the healthy should wear a mask, keep social distancing and take the necessary hygienic precautions all without a mandate…”
As of Wednesday evening, the City of Lubbock Health Department reported (on behalf of the city and Lubbock County combined) a total of 14,675 cases. The city reported a total of 152 deaths from COVID-19 or coronavirus.
Lubbock had 2,005 active cases as of Wednesday evening.