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COVID deaths continue to rise in the Midland-Odessa area as hospitalizations decline

Even as the latest COVID-19 surge in the Permian Basin’s largest cities slows, deaths continue to rise. This has health officials continuing to urge locals to get vaccinated, especially as the region’s vaccination rates lag behind the state’s and nation’s.

By Mitch Borden 

The last three months in Midland-Odessa hospitals have been some of the deadliest of the pandemic. Emergency rooms were overrun as facilities worked to keep up with surging cases while also facing staffing shortages.

Despite the recent decline in cases, health officials are continuing to see COVID-19 deaths rise, which has public health leaders calling on residents to get vaccinated. 

Currently, the majority of Midland-Odessa residents are not fully vaccinated. 

COVID Hospitalizations Dropping

Over the last month, the two primary hospitals serving the Permian Basin have seen the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 decrease. Even though the surge isn’t abating as fast as health officials would like to see, Midland Memorial Hospital and Medical Center Hospital in Odessa were both, as of Thursday, treating between 33 to 35 patients for COVID-19. 

It’s quite the drop from August when both facilities were crowded and emergency rooms were seeing well over 100 patients with the deadly disease. But even though the surge —  believed to be brought on by the delta variant —  is declining, local officials are still urging locals to get vaccinated.

Cases Falling But Deaths Continue To Rise

Even as healthcare providers at Midland Memorial have seen fewer people testing positive for the coronavirus and requiring care, the rate of people dying because of COVID-19 has continued to increase. As of Thursday, 19 patients had died from the disease since the beginning of October — putting the hospital on track to have one of the deadliest months it has had during the pandemic. 

The last few months are already in the top three deadliest months since March of 2020 for the Midland hospital. September was the second most deadly with 36 patients dying from COVID-19.

At Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, deaths have slowed compared to the last two months. September may have been the facility’s deadliest month of the pandemic with 50 deaths, but due to a lack of record-keeping, a hospital spokesperson couldn’t confirm this was the most deaths the facility has recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.

Vaccination Rates Slowly Rise in the Midland-Odessa Area

Since the recent surge began, both Midland and Odessa have seen their vaccination rates climb up to about 47% of eligible residents fully vaccinated. According to local officials, the jump was spurred by fear of the delta variant, the FDA approving the Pfizer vaccine and recent mass vaccination clinics in both cities. 

Still, with the flu season arriving as well as the holiday season on the horizon, medical providers worry that hospitals will see more people needing care in the coming weeks. Repeatedly, health officials continue to tell Midlanders and Odessans that the best way to protect themselves from COVID-19 is getting vaccinated.

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