LUBBOCK, TX — With only two days left until Thanksgiving as of Tuesday, health experts and the mayor urged people in Lubbock to scale back gatherings and avoid large groups on the holiday.
They emphasized that this could be a critical week for the region’s future COVID-19 cases, and “saturated” hospitals have reached capacity and can’t afford another surge of coronavirus.
“Hospitals are full, our ICUs are full, our emergency rooms are full … and there’s relatively no beds that are available,” Dr. Ron Cook, Lubbock Health Authority, said during the City of Lubbock’s weekly virtual COVID-19 update.
Lately, experts said Lubbock has been averaging about 500 new cases every day — not too far behind the daily averages of larger cities, such as San Antonio. But Tuesday, the City of Lubbock reported 680 new cases and 18 new deaths due to the virus — the most COVID-related deaths in Lubbock since the pandemic started. In the last seven days alone, 42 people in the Hub City have died of the virus.
“We need to make sure the decisions we make through the holidays don’t do anything to increase the number of daily cases,” Katherine Wells, Public Health Director, said.
Wells also said the surge of cases in the city since October are not due to superspreader events but rather from individuals not following safety guidelines and small groups without social distancing.
“Our [Thanksgiving] groups need to be smaller. It needs to be socially distanced, and it needs to be among those people who are living in your household,” Dr. Cook said.
Dr. Cook added that Canada’s recent Thanksgiving celebration serves as an example of what not to do and actually lead to a surge of new COVID-19 cases across the country– something Lubbock can’t afford with its already strained health systems.
“Canada, they had their Thanksgiving about six weeks ago, and what happened was about two weeks after Thanksgiving, they saw a significant increase in the number of COVID cases in their health system,” Dr. Cook said.
However, the meeting was not without some good news. Officials added that help, in the form of vaccines, is on the way. New studies revealed that three vaccines are showing high efficacy rates and could be out soon.
Last week, Governor Abbott distributed 300 doses of the antibody drug bamlanivimab to hospitals across Lubbock to help them weather the surge. The drug is meant for high risk patients who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 before the virus can land them in the ICU.
Although they couldn’t specify a date when the vaccines would be coming to Lubbock, officials said the vaccines will first go to healthcare workers, then those living in nursing homes and group homes followed by the rest of the community. Officials said there were 48 registered sites ready to administer the vaccine across the city when access.
“Yes, we are in trouble. Yes, we can do this. If we socially distance, if we wear our masks, if we stay in small groups and if we sanitize our hands, we can do this,” Dr. Cook said.