PERMIAN BASIN, Texas (Nexstar)- Both Medical Center Hospital and Midland Memorial Hospital are reporting a significant rise in coronavirus related hospitalizations as the highly transmissible Omicron variant makes its way across Texas.
As of Tuesday morning, MCH reported it is caring for 82 patients with the virus, a sharp increase from last Thursday when the hospital was caring for fewer than 60 patients with coronavirus. MCH says 20 of its patients are ventilated. The patients range in age from 19 to 89 years old.
In Midland, MMH reported it is caring for 88 patients on its COVID-19 floors. That number is also up significantly from last week. Additionally, the hospital has reported 15 deaths so far in the month of January.
“We’re moving back into very high numbers,” said MMH’s Chief Executive Officer Russell Meyers.
Not only is Midland seeing a higher number of hospitalized patients, but an increase in positive tests as well. In fact, the positivity rate through the MMH testing centers is sitting at about 50% this week. The centers also reported a 50% rate last week, where 719 people tested positive for the virus.
“That, far and away, is the highest number we’ve seen,” Meyers said.
Additionally, the Midland Health Department reported 2,800 new coronavirus cases last week.
“Omicron is milder, but it is making everyone sick at the same time,” said Dr. Whitney Craig of the Midland Health Department.
Craig said the positivity rate has increased “nine-fold” from last month and is at least three times higher than this time last year.
The newest variant presents more as an upper respiratory infection, with runny nose, sore throat, and congestion, rather than the high fever and loss of taste and smell associated with the original coronavirus variant. As such, testing is key to help mitigate the spread.
Both MCH and MMH announced last week they will no longer be administering tests for the virus through the emergency room as both hospitals have seen an increase in test seekers over the last couple of weeks. Those looking for a test are encouraged to call their primary care physician or call 68NURSE for an appointment. Additionally, most pharmacies and urgent care centers are still administering tests when available.
City leaders said anyone who is feeling sick should stay home until they are tested, especially since school has resumed for most students in Odessa and Midland.
Midland ISD is reporting a large increase in coronavirus cases among students and staff members. As of Tuesday, MISD reported 147 staff members and 451 students are in isolation with the virus. During the first week back to school after Christmas break, the district reported 119 staffers and 276 students out sick with COVID-19. For now, the district says it can care for its students in an in-person setting, but that could change if the virus continues to spread.
“We have the staff, right now, to have our schools open, have our buses running have our children fed,” said Superintendent Dr. Angelica Ramsey.
However, the district has had to shuffle staff members around to keep things running smoothly.
The hospitals are also having to shift people around to make sure all patients are cared for. MMH reported it has 102 staff members out in quarantine, compared to the 70 they had out last week.
“Our workforce us our biggest concern right now,” Meyers said.
Both MCH and MMH have requested additional resources from the state, it is unknown if or when that help will arrive.