MIDLAND, Texas (Nexstar)- While the presence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has not been confirmed within Midland, health leaders at Midland Memorial Hospital believe the newly identified variant is causing the most recent coronavirus surge in the Tall City.
Russell Meyers, Chief Executive Officer for Midland Health, said the city does not have access to real-time variant testing, however, since the more easily transmissible variant has been widely identified throughout Texas, leaders believe the variant is here and is causing a spike in the positivity rate.
“We track a curve of positive tests, and it’s just gone straight up in the last couple of weeks. Hospitalizations have not increased at that pace. We are seeing less severe disease, which is also consistent with the theory that this is the Omicron variant,” Meyers said.
Last week 492 people tested positive for the virus at the MMH testing centers.
“That’s the single most, the biggest week of positives since last January,” Meyers said.
So far this week, the testing centers are reporting a 51% positivity rate.
As more and more people are seeking out tests, the hospital is again asking patients to call 68NURSE to schedule a testing appointment rather than flooding the ER.
“The hospital is full, we don’t have the staff we would like to have and lots of people coming to the ED for inappropriate reasons,” Meyers said.
Anyone seeking acute medical treatment is encouraged to come in for care; however, those only needing a test, should avoid the emergency room if possible. Meyers said this will help decrease the overall wait time for those needing emergent care, especially as staffing issues linger.
“We’re seeing a very significant impact on our workforce as the highly transmissible Omicron variant…is coursing through our community,” Meyers said.
The hospital said it currently has 70 staff members who have tested positive out for quarantine. Another 40 staff members have been exposed and are monitoring themselves for symptoms. As the need for more workers continues to increase, the hospital has requested an additional 60 nurses as well as respiratory therapists from the state, but it is unknown if or when additional resources may arrive.
In the meantime, the hospital said it will continue to monitor available beds and will reshuffle resources as needed.
As of Tuesday morning, the hospital said it is caring for 197 patients, 62 of those are being treated for coronavirus. Additionally, the hospital has reported three coronavirus related deaths so far this month.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Wilson again encouraged vaccinations during Tuesday’s news conference and stressed the importance of remaining cautious while allowing people to “get back to life” and aiding the economic rebound.
“The goal is that we are aware of the high transmissibility of this infection, but also recognizing that we are living with this, and we have to be getting back to activities to some extent…practicing safe, but realistic expectations moving forward,” Wilson said.
As such, Wilson said everyone should be aware of the updated quarantine guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control:
Unvaccinated people testing positive are advised to quarantine for at least five days from the onset of symptoms. Those who are asymptomatic are asked to quarantine for at least five days after they test positive. After five days, if symptoms are improving, those patients are asked to continue wearing a mask and practice social distancing for another five days.
Fully vaccinated people who are exposed do not need to quarantine unless they are symptomatic but should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure and monitor themselves for symptoms.