PITTSBURG, Texas (KLTV) - Pittsburg Mayor David Abernathy said in an interview with KLTV’s Jamey Boyum that people need to start taking the COVID-19 virus seriously again because Texas and the nation, in general, have reached the point where the healthcare system is being overwhelmed by the new cases.
Boyum spoke to Abernathy in the Pittsburg City Council chambers on Tuesday.
“We have reached the point where we have overwhelmed our healthcare system,” Abernathy said. “We’ve also, in many cases, overwhelmed our EMS providers.”
Abernathy said he put out a press release about the worsening COVID-19 situation on Dec. 30. The press release came after he spent time in Austin talking to the state-level emergency management people.
“The numbers are just staggering,” Abernathy said.
He said health and emergency management experts told him that the recent surge Texas has seen in COVID-19 correlates to people not following coronavirus safety guidelines during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Abernathy said the trauma service area that includes Camp County has been above 15 percent of its hospitals’ total capacity for more than seven days. As a result, hospitals are having to set aside additional rooms to be used to treat COVID-19 patients and others to serve as ICU rooms.
The Pittsburg mayor said in other parts of Texas, funeral homes and medical examiner offices have been overwhelmed by the number of new COVID-19-related deaths. Some areas of the state have even had to bring in refrigerated morgue support trailers.
Ambulances are being parked at hospitals and used as additional ICU rooms, Abernathy said.
Abernathy said many East Texas hospitals have gotten to “full divert” status, which means they no longer have the space or the necessary staffing to take new patients. He added that means there are no places to take someone with a broken leg or a COVID-19 infection.
Abernathy said 17 of Texas’ 22 TSAs are above the 15-percent threshold, and many of them are regularly in the 20-percent range.
“It goes back to what Gov. Greg Abbott has been saying since Day 1; let’s not overwhelm our healthcare system,” Abernathy said.
Pittsburg’s mayor said there are even some Texas hospitals where 50 percent of all their patients are COVID-19 cases, and they are being forced to prepare new rooms.
Staffing has become an issue as well. Abernathy said Texas has brought in about 10,000 healthcare workers to help with the pandemic, and 1,000 of them went to assist East Texas hospitals.
At the same time, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are simply getting burned out, and the extra money they are making is just not an incentive anymore. Abernathy said the next step could be bringing military medical personnel and large medical tents to handle the growing number of COVID-19 patients.
Abernathy said he knows people are burned out on the COVID-19 protocols and safety measures, but it is just common sense. If Texans can lower the exposure to the coronavirus, that will in turn result in fewer infections. Fewer infections will mean fewer hospitalizations and even stays in ICU rooms.
To watch the entire interview, click the video above.