COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 Update from Mayor Abernathy

December 30, 2020

Well, it has happened. For the first time, all hospital regions in the state of Texas are reporting that more than 15% of their patients are hospitalized with COVID-19. There are 22 hospital regions. Hospital staffing and available ICU bed space have been severely impacted.   

Yesterday, the state reported almost 27,000 new positive cases in a single day!  That’s double the record number for the year, which was set the day prior.  It is feared that most of these new positive cases and hospitalized patients are the ripple effect of exposure over the Thanksgiving holiday. The lack of taking precautions over the Christmas holidays and New Years could have a catastrophic impact on the healthcare system. Today, there are almost 12,000 people in hospitals with COVID-19 and that number is steadily on the rise. Many of these people are so sick that they require intensive care. Many of the hospital's staff have been impacted and are either in isolation or quarantine and this adds to the severity of the situation.

You may have heard of the term “divert” for a hospital.  If you haven’t, you will.  A hospital can announce that they are on a divert for the “emergency room” or for “psychiatric patients,” or whatever. This means that for those types of cases, the hospital has reached maximum capacity and cannot take any more of those categories. Recently, hospitals across Northeast Texas announced that they were on “Full Divert” meaning that they couldn’t take ANY patients, regardless of the reason. Okay, what happens then.  Injured or sick people will have to wait or be prioritized and pushed ahead of someone else, who will have to wait.  EMS providers either have to try to find another hospital to take their patients to or the patients have to wait in the ambulance. This means that the ambulance and personnel are tied up and are out of service until they can find a place for their patients. THESE SITUATIONS ARE EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO AVOID ALL YEAR LONG.  

For months, everyone has been encouraged to utilize facial coverings, distancing, washing hands, sanitizing, and avoiding large crowds to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This is a highly infectious disease and it affects different people in different ways. Children and young adults have died from it. The otherwise healthy, with no pre-existing conditions, have died from it. People have been hospitalized and had to rely on a mechanical ventilator to keep them alive and remained in a hospital for weeks.  

It’s time to ACT. No, it’s past time to ACT. Our hospitals and healthcare workers have become overwhelmed. PERIOD. These workers are our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, fellow human beings. Hospitals and their staffs, just like schools, community infrastructure, etc., are patterned around an average population for that area. Surges can be handled, but not for a sustained amount of time. If this continues, the next step for COVID-19 will be to set up temporary hospital facilities and find medical personnel from outside the area to staff them.

 If the date was 1942, we wouldn’t have to beg people to do everything they could to help. In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw wrote that Americans of that time, who contributed to the effort, did so not for fame or recognition, but because it was the “right thing to do.”

David Abernathy
City of Pittsburg, Texas