Area officials warn that hospital transfers are becoming difficult

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

August 25, 2021

The latest surge of COVID-19 cases is straining the resources of medical facilities throughout the area and the state.


Hill County Judge Justin Lewis said Friday, August 20, that he had been informed that with elective surgeries canceled, Hill Regional Hospital’s pre-op area was being used to care for patients with COVID-19, and five patients at the hospital were on ventilators last week.


The judge was also informed by local health officials that large hospitals in the area are at capacity and local facilities have had a hard time finding locations to transfer patients in need of advanced care.


The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is increasing more quickly than at any other point of the pandemic.


Bosque County Emergency Management also released a statement about hospitalizations last week. “COVID cases continue to rise and the ability to transfer seriously ill patients to higher care facilities is almost nonexistent,” the statement read. “If you or someone you love becomes infected and needs a higher level of care to survive, there will be serious challenges in locating an ICU room. More and more cases are requiring this level of care.”


Statewide, there were 13,106 people hospitalized with the virus as of Sunday, August 22, according to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS).


In Trauma Service Area M—which includes Hill, Bosque, McLennan, Limestone and Falls counties—the state was reporting that there were 182 individuals with the virus hospitalized as of Thursday. A total of 80 hospital beds were available in the region, but no ICU beds were available to serve the region’s estimated population of almost 350,000 people.


CareFlite representatives reported to the Emergency Services District (ESD) 2 Board of Commissioners last Thursday evening that some hospitals in the area were no longer accepting transports to their facilities, including Hill Regional Hospital.


With the increased spread coming at a time when students are returning to class, local school districts are working to stay up to date with changing guidance.


The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reversed part of its guidance for this school year that did not initially require school districts to notify parents of a close contact with the virus.


Schools must now notify teachers, staff and families of students of any COVID-19 cases in classrooms or extra-curricular activities. Local health officials are also allowed to investigate COVID-19 cases in schools.


Classes at Itasca Independent School District were set to begin this week after the first day of school was delayed last week due to an influx of COVID-19 cases among faculty and staff. That district also updated its guidance to recommend, but not require, that all faculty, staff and students wear masks.


Bynum ISD announced Sunday evening that school would be canceled all this week due to 25 percent of teachers and staff having COVID-19, along with a significant number of students. The district reported that because of the high numbers, it is likely that all students and staff were exposed last week.


Morgan ISD in Bosque County also shut down Wednesday, August 18th, because of a COVID-19 outbreak involving 24 percent of students and staff. Classes were expected to resume there Wednesday.


DSHS was reporting an estimated total of 252 active COVID-19 cases in Hill County and 148 in Bosque County as of the Sunday, August 22, update.


State numbers show that almost 44 percent of Hill County residents over the age of 12 have now received one dose of a vaccine, with 36 percent fully vaccinated. In Bosque County, 48 percent of those 12 and over have received one dose, with about 40 percent fully vaccinated.


DSHS once again pointed to widespread vaccination as the way out of the pandemic last week. “Vaccines continue to strongly protect against hospitalization,” the department announced Thursday. “Even against the delta variant, the vaccines will keep nearly all out of the hospital.”


More information about vaccination is available at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/coronavirus and http://www.getvaccineanswers.org. Vaccines are available from a number of medical offices and pharmacies. A statewide website is available to help the public easily find vaccines at getthevaccine.dshs.texas.gov.

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