East Texas mayor, Gregg County Health Authority give insight on COVID-19 increase

Region G Hospitalizations

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - The COVID-19 hospitalization rate has been above 15 percent of total capacity for 22 days straight. On Tuesday, Trauma Service Area G was reported at just over 21 percent. Gregg County Health Authority, and a local mayor who issued a warning about spreading COVID-19, share more about this situation.

Gregg County Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne and Pittsburg Mayor David Abernathy aren’t in the same counties, but they are both in Trauma Service Area G, where hospital ICU beds are filling up.

“We’re having just an unbelievable amount of patients in the hospitals, the ER clinics. The hospitals are very full with COVID patients,” Browne said

They both feel the surging came from the holidays.

“The highest report recorded in the summer was like 10,800 and some odd cases,” Abernathy said.

On December 29 when Abernathy was at the State Operations Center in Austin putting his first responder training to use volunteering for COVID-19 response, the state hit 27,000 new cases in one day.

That’s when he wrote a press release for citizens of Pittsburg.

“This time maybe we can catch some people before they go out and party for the New Year’s holiday,” Abernathy said.

He may never know if his advice helped. And Browne thinks a holiday-driven surge in COVID-19 cases has already begun.

“The Longview hospitals, Smith County hospitals ... there’s really no beds in the I.C.U.” Browne said.

Browne says it’s not all COVID-19 cases, but they think it may get worse.

“We expect into January and February some of these numbers to expand dramatically from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays,” Abernathy said.

And if severe COVID-19 cases continue to climb to levels happening in West Texas, Browne and Abernathy warn that hospitals may go to medical divert. That means there are no beds available and patients have to be taken elsewhere. But if there is no elsewhere:

“The ambulance becomes the ICU,” Abernathy said.

So it can’t respond to calls until a bed becomes available.

But right now:

“All of the hospitals have extended their ICU bed coverage,” Browne said.

And they both fear the extra beds won’t be enough.

“The emphasis all along, from the very beginning, has been to not overwhelm the health care system, and we’re beyond that,” Abernathy said.

Mayor Abernathy and Dr. Browne understand that people are tired of the precautions advised by the CDC, but they say we must remain vigilant to keep COVID-19 infections down.

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