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Amarillo Area Coronavirus Status Level moves to level red

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 11:36 AM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - City officials said the Amarillo Area Coranavirus Status Level is moving back to level red, the highest level on the chart.

The move comes as hospitals face a shortage of available hospital beds and a “meteoric” rise in COVID-19 cases, including those involving children.

Amarillo doctors held an emergency news conference this morning to share the impacts of the spike on the capacity of hospitals to care for the sick.

“We have 12 pediatric ICU beds...because of staffing we have four beds available,” said Dr. Brian Weis, Chief Medical Officer for Northwest Texas Hospital System. “We have four kids in the ICU.”

Dr. Todd Bell, City of Amarillo Public Health Authority, said he visited a junior high student on their tenth day in the hospital with COVID-19 this morning. This is their second hospitalization.

Dr. Bell said the Delta COVID-19 variant is more transmissible and leading to an influx in cases among the young, further straining an already taxed medical system

“The rate of this rise is something we haven’t seen locally throughout this pandemic,” said Dr. Bell. “Knowing that we’re all at risk, we all need to be a part of the solution to take care of this COVID surge.”

At the start of the news conference, Dr. Weis said a patient in the ER has been waiting for a hospital bed for 53 hours.

“I’ve been in medicine over 33 years and I have never seen our resources strained like this in the medical field. Over two days this person has been waiting for a bed,” said Dr. Weis. “This morning we started with 20 patients on hold.”

The shortage of hospital beds and staff at NWTH is so serious that Dr. Weis urged everyone to use caution in their activities, such as riding a motorcycle or jumping on a trampoline.

“If you come to Northwest with an injury, I cannot guarantee you we can give you the care you need,” said Dr. Weis.

Casie Stoughton, director of the Amarillo Department of Health, said hospitals are at critical capacity, and this has led to a change in the area status level.

“We’ve got to alleviate pressure on our hospitals,” said Stoughton. “Our doctors are begging us to do the right thing.”

Doctors present at the conference continued to stress the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, noting that though breakthrough infections are possible among the vaccinated, those infections are far less severe when compared with unvaccinated individuals.

“No therapy we give for any medical condition in the history of the world is 100% effective,” said Dr. Michael Lamanteer, chief medical officer at BSA. “[The delta variant] is more contagious... it’s more lethal. Yes we are having breakthrough infections. The good news is that if you’re vaccinated, the chance of getting a severe infection is far less.”

The latest COVID-19 case numbers in the Amarillo area can be viewed here.

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