Amarillo businesses to reopen, expand capacity thanks to low hospitalization rates

CDC recommends masks in public settings

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - As area COVID-19 hospitalization rates continue to fall, the City of Amarillo is preparing to open up previously closed and restricted facilities and businesses as soon as tomorrow.

The city has been under the 15% hospitalization rate threshold for six days now. If the city remains under that rate for one more day, Amarillo will no longer be considered an area of high hospitalization.

City Manager Jared Miller said bars in Potter and Randall counties may reopen at 50% percent capacity if the hospitalization rate remains under 15% as of 4:00 p.m. today.

City Hall will allow face-to-face meetings by appointment, Amarillo Public Library and Animal Management and Welfare will open to the public, and park amenities such as volleyball and basketball courts will reopen.

Miller said events at the Amarillo Civic Center will also be allowed to resume and the Warford Activity Center may resume aquatics and general use at a 50% capacity.

City leaders emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant in social distancing and masking efforts as the community looks forward to returning to normal.

“We need everyone to continue doing what we’re doing that’s effecting our numbers in such a positive ways,” said Mayor Ginger Nelson. “I want to be very clear this morning that we can’t ease up....we’re not at the finish line yet.”

Nelson asked those planning events for the spring to keep “social distancing parameters in mind.”

In addition to the city allowing for a greater capacity at area businesses, area hospitals are facing changes as well.

BSA and NWTHS have been notified of the mobilization of their RAC nurses, traveling staff sent by the state to assist with the high-hospitalization rates.

“We anticipate losing about 50% of these RAC staff members over these next six weeks,” said Dr. Brian Weis, chief medical officer at Northwest Texas Hospital. “What has gotten us here must continue to keep us here.”

City leaders accredit the lowered rate to the impact of masking, social distancing and vaccinations.

The vaccination clinic ran by the Amarillo Public Health Department has delivered 29, 855 first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and 9,545 second doses.

Director of Amarillo Public Health Casie Stoughton said the city will remain in status level red locally, despite the decrease in the hospitalization rate.

“Locally, we’re still under a status level red, and that is because three of the four indicators we set as our threshold for our status level red are still being met,” she said. “We still have a lot of work to do in this fight against COVID.”

As of today, BSA is caring for 46 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 17 are in the Intensive Care Unit.

NWTHS is caring for 40 COVID-19 patients, and 18 of those patients are in the ICU.

Hospital leaders say therapeutic treatments for hospitalized COVID-19 patients have show some success, and they have been able to “scale back” on ICU capacity which was expanded due to the high number of seriously ill patients due to lowered numbers.

“Prevention is the best medicine. Get the vaccine if you have the opportunity to get it,” said Dr. Michael Lamanteer, chief medical officer at BSA. “If you have the opportunity to get the vaccine, I want you to think long and hard about why you’re not.”

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