SAN ANGELO, Texas — Today across Texas, we saw the highest number of Coronavirus cases reported yet. During a press conference Chris Barnett, MD, Shannon Medical Center’s Chief Medical Officer answered questions about COVID-19 from members of the media.
“We’re good right now but as you hear from all across the state and regions, staffing would be the issue if we had a very large surge of patients that came in at one time,” said Chris Barnett, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Shannon Medical Center.
While nearly 10% of Coronavirus patients in the area are being hospitalized, Dr. Barnett said the hospital has enough capacity to treat all of them. There are currently about 400 licensed beds at Shannon, along with 19 ICU beds.
“10-15% of people are developing a more severe form of the illness. It’s those 10-15% of the positive patients that are ending up in the hospital, requiring oxygen and requiring significant medical care here,” explained Dr. Barnett, “We have a COVID unit on two of our floors and a part of the ICU dedicated to COVID positive patients. They have their own particular nursing staff and support that only work on that unit so as to not go back and forth between patients.”
Dr. Barnett said that while the hospital is in good shape now, it’s important for citizens to continue to do their part to slow the spread of the virus.
“The best way to do that, and Dr. Vretis has stressed this over and over, is to wear a mask, social distance and avoid being in large groups,” added Dr. Barnett, “We do not want to be in a position where we are not able to care for everyone who needs help, COVID or non-COVID included.”
With more and more people being tested every day, test results can take from a week to 10 days.
While Shannon does have a limited number of rapid result tests available, these are being reserved for patients who have been admitted to the hospital and medical staff who have had exposure or symptoms of the virus.
“The testing is going to get worse before it gets better. Hopefully we can maintain the drive-thru. The drive-thrus are a very successful way to get lots of people through and safely test them for the virus, but we’ve gotten so good at it that now the labs can’t catch up,” said Dr. Barnett.
Dr. Barnett went on to talk about antibody tests. Antibody testing determines whether a person has had COVID-19 in the past and now has antibodies against the virus.
“Currently, we are focusing on testing for the acute illness to identify patients who have the disease and need treatment,” added Dr. Barnett, “Right now the antibody test doesn’t help us with the management of anything. Where it’s important is if a patient has had COVID-19 and they’ve had a positive antibody test, I’d encourage them to go to the blood bank to donate their plasma. We use that in our critically ill patients in order to help them recover. A lot of the plasma we’re using is coming from the Northeast because there are more people who have recovered from the illness up there. As the numbers increase in San Angelo and the state of Texas, those willing to donate their plasma will add a benefit to the members of the community who may get a severe form of the disease.”
Dr. Barnett also talked about what the hospital is currently using to treat COVID-19 patients, and answered other questions members of the media had on the topic. You can watch the full interview with Dr. Barnett here.