UNIFIED COMMAND: MMH caring for nearly 100 COVID-19 patients, MISD encouraging masks, City and County advising caution when gathering

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MIDLAND, Texas (Nexstar)- The Midland Unified Command team held a news conference Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus response among the various agencies. 

Midland Memorial Hospital reported as of Wednesday morning, it is caring for 98 patients with the virus. The ages of the hospitalized patients range from 19 to 91. 88% of those patients are unvaccinated, according to MMH. 

“The vast majority of people hospitalized and having a hard time are unvaccinated,” said CEO Russell Meyers. 

“With the vaccine, we’ve seen a reduction in the amount of virus amongst those that are vaccinated. It’s not questioned, that’s absolutely true. Also, those that are vaccinated aren’t getting as sick, we haven’t had a death,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Wilson. 

The hospital has however, seen 13 deaths related to the virus in the month of August. All those patients were unvaccinated, according to the hospital. 

Aside from the high number of deaths reported in the first half of the month, the hospital also continues to see a rise in the number of positive tests. Since August 8, there have been 745 new cases reported in Midland. 

“Our case counts are increasing day by day,” Wilson said. “The numbers are continuing to rise…pretty much straight up at this point in time. We looked at a graph last night with our physicians that shows that and it’s very sobering and scary. The numbers are not going down, even if we did everything perfectly today, this is going to continue to trend upward just like it is now for the next week at least and probably longer.”

Wilson said the best thing people in the community can do to help slow the spread is mask up, social distance, avoid large gatherings, and get vaccinated. That message has not changed. However, the hospital knows many are skeptical, especially as conflicting opinions and misinformation spread on social media. 

To that Wilson said, “I’m asking everybody to think about what’s gone on over the last twenty months with this pandemic. In times when we sheltered in homes, when we masked, when we social distanced and everybody was really disciplined, the disease trajectory went down.”

Meyers said anyone on the fence about the vaccine or steps to mitigate the disease should not rely on social media posts, but rather the science. 

“The most important message in all of this, and we’ll keep repeating it. If you have some doubt about how this disease should be managed, if you’re wondering if vaccination is safe, or a good idea for you, talk to your physician, talk to your trusted medical advisor,” Meyers said. 

As the hospitalizations continue to rise, the hospital is set to receive 21 nurses and 10 respiratory therapists Wednesday. The staff sent by the state will help but isn’t nearly enough. As such, the hospital is again asking those coming to the ER for testing to call 68NURSE to find a testing center instead. And those needing non-emergent care should seek help from an urgent care center, or from their primary physician. 

As for parents bringing their children in for testing, the hospital says the ER is not the place to get that done. Midland ISD is offering testing on campus for anyone who gets sick while at school. Additionally, MISD is asking students and staff not to come to school if they are sick.

MISD says 306 students are out with the virus and 44 staff members are in quarantine as well. So far, the district is not mandating masks, but does recommend them. 

“We are strongly, strongly encouraging all staff and our students to do so,” said Dr. Angelica Ramsey, MISD Superintendent. 

The City and County were both represented Wednesday as well, and both are encouraging everyone to do their part to slow the spread. And while both entities they they are not planning to mandate masks or shut down any large gatherings, they say to use caution. 

“The county is not looking at any type of mask mandate or shutting down, we believe in the rights of the citizens and their ability to make informed decisions,” said Justin Bunch, Midland County Emergency Management.

For now, it will be up to individual organizers to decide which group events will go on as planned. 

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