Epidemiologists warn current COVID-19 hot spots in Texas harder to contain than those in the spring

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AUSTIN (Texas) — Last week, a COVID-19 patient was transported from the Rio Grande Valley to Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo. The southern region of the state is facing serious hospital capacity concerns.

“We’re running short on staff and other related equipment,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said of the hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley.

NWTHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Weis said the hospital system took in the critically ill patient, who was on a ventilator, because of that shortage.

“They did not have critical care beds available at that time of speaking,” Dr. Weis said.

“We have let other hospitals know in that area that we are open to take some of the patients,” Dr. Weis added.

It was just two months ago that Amarillo was labeled a hot spot, but after the state surged resources to the area, the Panhandle was able to stabilize.

That’s partly because the spike in cases in Amarillo were traced to meatpacking plants and long-term living facilities.

“When the state knew there was a long-term care facility or meatpacking plant — it’s one spot. You can go in and globally test everybody,” said Dr. Ogechika Alozie with the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force.

The hot spots now, he explained, are based more on community spread.

“When you have multiple zip codes that are having 200, 300, 400 or 500 cases in that area, [it’s] much harder,” Dr. Alozie said.

“We essentially had a campfire, and it’s a lot easier to put out a campfire. We didn’t put it out completely, and so the embers from that campfire now spread into the forest, and we have a full blaze,” Dr. Alozie added.

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