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The Number Of COVID-19 Patients Surge At Midland - Odessa Hospitals As West Texas Sees A Spike In Coronavirus Cases

By Mitch Borden

Hospitals in the Permian Basin hubs are facing a wave of coronavirus cases as more West Texans test positive for the virus. Health officials are even seeing patients from the panhandle and New Mexico fill local hospital beds as facilities near capacity across the state. 

This has caused leaders in Midland and Odessa to renew their calls for residents to continue social distancing and to stay vigilant.

During two coronavirus updates held on Thursday, health officials from the two communities outlined the increasingly serious situation facing hospitals in both cities.  

Midland Memorial Hospital’s CEO Russell Meyers said this is a “critical time for our community.” He explained Midland’s lone hospital is treating more than 50 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, many transferred in from surrounding communities. 

But even as Midland Memorial is taking in patients from outside the region, the hospital is also contending with a local spike in cases, which is putting a strain on medical resources. According to Meyers, this surge of cases rivals other peaks in the spring and summer. 

“The outbreak is much more widespread.” He said, “The light is not there at the end of the tunnel just yet.” 

The hospital’s supply of ventilators is also dwindling. Currently, 35 of the 48 ventilators, according to CEO, available to Midland Memorial are being used to treat patients, the majority of whom are in the hospital’s COVID-19 wards. Meyers said the hospital has ordered more ventilators, but the company that manufactures the machines has told the facility to not expect its order to be filled until next year. 

In Odessa, the community’s two hospitals — Medical Center Hospital and Odessa Regional Medical Center — are also seeing cases surge. Both facilities have had to limit how many patients they can accept from outside the community. 

Medical Center’s CEO Russell Tippin summed up the situation.

“Our problem is that we’re full. I mean, that’s just what it gets down to,” he said.

As of Thursday, Medical Center had 47 confirmed coronavirus patients and expects to have more in the near future.

The hospital has started implementing parts of its surge plan in preparation, such as opening up more space for coronavirus patients and limiting visitors. Midland Memorial Hospital has taken similar measures.

Tippin says these precautions are necessary to keep people, “especially myself, from panicking” while also protecting the health of hospital employees. On Thursday, 33 Medical Center staff members were quarantined because they have been either diagnosed or possibly exposed to the virus.

The majority of the new cases in both cities are believed to be the result of community spread. Officials are urging residents to stay away from large social gatherings and to stay vigilant by maintaining social distancing, thoroughly washing hands, and wearing a mask. 

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.