City of Amarillo changes how they will report COVID-19 cases

KFDA Video 325 update

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The City of Amarillo will no longer report confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of the city, only those that are Potter or Randall County residents.

If a patient is being treated for COVID-19 in an Amarillo hospital and is not a resident of Potter or Randall County, they will no longer be counted in the City of Amarillo’s total positive cases, but rather, the county they live in.

“The reason for us just focusing on Randall and Potter is, the regional area is really not in our district, it’s in the State Department, it’s within their jurisdiction and not ours,” said Amarillo Pro Tem Mayor Freda Powell.

“Any other information about the regional patients, you’d have to contact the Department of State Health Services,” said Casie Stoughton, director with Amarillo Public Health Department.

We asked city health officials why we are not getting more information regarding positive COVID-19 patients that they have reported.

“We balance the public’s health and need for information versus patient confidentiality. Any time that there is a gap in information, we will provide that information. If we’re satisfied that we don’t have a gap in information, then we will not provide that information,” said Stoughton.

The City of Amarillo is still on alert level orange, and officials do not have a definite answer as to if or when we would move to alert level red.

“It’s a subjective number, so when we see widespread cases, that may be an increased number. That may be community spread,” said Stoughton.

Right now, the City reports two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Randall County, while the State is reporting cases in Potter County.

“They are in Randall County, so the State, for that notation, is in error, and we are working with them to correct that,” said Stoughton.

Testing is still being done sparingly, but they are hoping to have access to rapid testing within the next few days.

“I believe Texas Tech is already looking at starting a drive through within the next few days. Yes, I think in that sense, once we have that kind of capacity, you’ll see drive through. You may see clinic settings for rapid screens. Certainly the emergency room will be able to move patients through much faster. That would be a game changer if we could do those rapid tests,” said Dr. Brian Weis, chief medical officer at Northwest Texas Hospital.

For the first time, a representative of the VA joined the City leaders conference. He says testing is taking longer for patients at the VA, as the tests have to be shipped to California.

“We are working rigorously, so that we can provide the full testing in house, in our lab. We are still about a couple weeks away from being able to perform that function in house,” said Froy Garza, interim medical center director for Amarillo VA Healthcare Systems.

Medication for VA patients will now be mostly shipped. They are asking their patients to call ahead if they are experiencing symptoms, but at this time, there is only someone able to evaluate patients over the phone from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 in the afternoon.

“It may not be completely necessary for them to visit the emergency department at the VA, so we are asking them to call ahead,” said Garza.

As of this afternoon, there are no patients with COVID-19 at BSA, but there are four COVID-19 positive patients being treated at Northwest. Three of the four patients are on ventilators.

As of this afternoon, the City says there have been 98 COVID-19 tests reported through the health department, and 17 are still pending.

All non-emergency surgeries have been rescheduled as staff will be diverted to the hospitals to have more hands on deck.

Everyone entering hospitals in Amarillo will be screened, including staff.

City of Amarillo COVID-19 Status Chart
City of Amarillo COVID-19 Status Chart (Source: KFDA)

Copyright 2020 KFDA. All rights reserved.