ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar)- City leaders, as well as hospital and school officials, held a news conference Thursday to update the community on city wide efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus.
As the Omicron variant makes its way across Texas, coronavirus tests are in limited supply. The City of Odessa, in partnership with Odessa Police Department, Odessa Fire and Rescue, and the University of Texas Permian Basin, launched a new testing initiative Thursday aimed at keeping test seekers out of emergency rooms and health clinics.
“There’s a huge need right now in our community for testing,” OFR Captain and leader of Odessa’s Incident Command Rodd Huber said.
Huber said the team at UTPB administered more than 300 tests on Thursday alone. The site shut down about halfway through the day Thursday but was able to reopen for testing and will be open Friday as planned.
The testing center, located in the parking lot of the UTPB soccer and softball fields, will run from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Sunday for as long as needed. Huber said anyone wanting a test should register online before heading to the site to help keep traffic flowing as it should.
Ector County ISD is also pitching in to help with testing. Assistant Superintendent Alicia Syverson said nurses within the district are administering about 150 coronavirus tests a day. The tests are available for any student or staff member who starts feeling sick while on campus. Additionally, the district has launched a drive-thru testing center at New Tech Odessa. Those tests are available for staff members who are home sick but are unable to get tested anywhere else.
“We know that access to testing is difficult,’ Syverson said.
Since Monday, the district has had more than 850 students and staff members test positive for the virus. Syverson said the district is in an “all hands on deck” situation and that personnel are being shifted between campuses as needed. She also said the district is tracking the spread and monitoring each campus to make sure each one can open safely for in-person learning.
Additionally, the district says it has masks and hand sanitizer available, as well as air purifiers to help mitigate the spread. But Syverson said it is important for everyone to do their part and is asking parents to keep their children home if they are sick, even if they think they may only be experiencing allergies.
Odessa Regional Medical Center’s Chief Medical Director echoed that thought.
“If you are sick, it’s most likely COVID, it’s not something else. So, isolate yourself to protect others. If you’re symptomatic, you can safely assume you have it,” Saravanan said.
Both ORMC and Medical Center Hospital have seen a significant increase in coronavirus hospitalizations. As of Thursday afternoon, MCH reported it is caring for 89 patients with the virus. Those patients range in age from six weeks to 92 years old. ORMC reported it is caring for 26 COVID-19 patients. The majority of the patients at ORMC are over the age of 50.
Both hospitals are also experiencing staffing shortages amid the current surge. MCH said it has 73 staff members in quarantine. ORMC has 34 staff members out. Both hospitals have requested help from the state in the form of nurses and respiratory therapists, no word on when that help may arrive. Because of the rising census and staffing shortage, MCH also announced it is no longer accepting transfers from across the region.
At the county level, Judge Debbie Hayes said the County is working with nursing home facilities to administer vaccines and boosters to residents as well as staff. Additionally, the County is working with the Ector County Sheriff’s Office to make sure coronavirus testing is available for inmates. In mid-December, ECSO announced a facility-wide quarantine because of a COVID-19 surge. No word yet on when in-person visitation will be reinstated.