A new surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Northeast Texas is becoming what local hospital officials are calling an “epidemic of the unvaccinated.” The surge has prompted some health care systems to temporarily close freestanding emergency rooms so staff can be redirected to main campuses to help with the influx.
Hunt Regional and Texas Health Hospital both closed freestanding ERs on Friday, with both citing the need for additional staff on their main campuses. Texas Health Hospital did not specify when it might reopen its Rockwall North ER, but Hunt Regional’s announcement said its goal is to reopen its Commerce ER by the end of August.
Asked about Paris Regional Medical Center’s plans, CEO Steve Hyde said he does not anticipate closing the ER at any time, even as the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations has skyrocketed in the last two weeks. He emphasized the closed ERs were hospital-based affiliated freestanding centers, not the health systems’ main hospital ERs.
Two weeks ago, PRMC was caring for two to three hospitalized Covid-19 patients. That number rose to 16 by Aug. 9 and fell to 13 by Friday, Hyde said. During the weekend, the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients jumped to 28 — and more than 95% of the patients are unvaccinated, Hyde said, adding recent Covid-19 related deaths include patients in their 40s and 50s.
Monday’s tally is also nearly half the number of concurrent Covid-19 patients in PRMC as during the January/February surge, Hyde said, adding the difference is the hospital had additional hands on deck because the state sent extra nurses. That help is no longer available, Hyde said, adding there will be requests made for aid. On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott appealed for out-of-state help to fight the third wave of Covid-19 in Texas.
“The message still is we strongly encourage everyone to get the vaccine,” Hyde said Monday during a telephone interview. “I don’t know where this is going to go, but the more Covid-19 patients we have in house, the less our capacity becomes for caring for non-Covid patients. It’s a worrisome trend.”
Hyde also emphasized that PRMC continues to provide safe, quality care to all patients. The hospital continues to enforce masking requirements for all team members and visitors, along with continuing enhanced disinfection protocols and hand hygiene.
Active cases in the four Red River Valley counties have continued to rise, according to Texas Department of State Health Services data. Lamar County’s active case count this morning was 236; Red River’s was 59, Fannin County’s was 81 and Delta County’s was 22. Meanwhile, only about a quarter of each county’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to the state’s data. The rate of fully vaccinated residents in Lamar County on Saturday was 28.8%, in Red River County 27.8%, in Fannin County 30% and in Delta County 25%.
The hospitalization rate for Trauma Service Area F, which includes Paris, Clarksville, Cooper, Sulphur Springs, Texarkana and Mount Pleasant, rose from 9.89% on Aug. 1 to 16.84% on Aug. 4 before falling slightly to 15.88% on Saturday. The hospitalization rate for TSA E, which includes Fannin County and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, has continued to climb from 10.91% on Aug. 1 to 13.88% on Saturday, according to the state’s data.
Several local retailers continue to offer Covid-19 vaccination free of charge, including Walmart and CVS. The Paris-Lamar County Health District is offering free vaccines to anyone age 12 and up with no appointment needed. Call 903-715-0422 or visit 1128 Clarksville St., Ste. 150, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It also will conduct a Covid-19 vaccine clinic from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 17 at First Christian Church’s White Fellowship Hall. There will be refreshments and vaccine recipients will be registered to receive gift certificates as door prizes.