GAINESVILLE – COVID-19 is overwhelming local hospitals and healthcare providers, according to Cooke County officials.
“… (W)e are pleading with our local residents to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so. While fully vaccinated people may still become COVID-19 positive, their symptoms are generally much milder and their risk of becoming sick to the point of requiring hospitalization is many times lower than an unvaccinated person. Vaccinations are offered free of charge from most local pharmacies.”
That plea, issued late Wednesday by Cooke County Judge Steve Starnes, the City of Gainesville, North Texas Medical Center and Muenster Memorial Hospital, is part of a joint statement by the group, which has started meeting daily to watch local conditions.
“In the 19-county Trauma Service Area that Cooke County participates in, COVID-19 hospitalizations have grown from 700 on July 15 to over 2,800 as of Aug. 16 … the daily average of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at North Texas Medical Center grew from 2 to 17 – 97 percent of the patients hospitalized at North Texas Medical Center with COVID-19 in August have not been vaccinated,” according to the statement.
The statement did not refer to or demand mask wearing. Gainesville schools opened for the 2021-22 year Wednesday without a mask mandate. A survey of Cooke County school districts indicates they intend to obey Gov. Greg Abbott’s order prohibiting mask requirements for schools.
The guidance received from the state has been very minimal, according to Gainesville ISD Superintendent DesMontes Stewart.
“The first day went well. As I visited campuses the faculty, staff and students were very engaged and excited to get the school year going,” Stewart told the Register.
NTMC has six intensive care unit beds, which are all full. Rigsby said they have added some additional rooms in one of the hallways for COVID patients with the negative air pressure. The patients are middle-aged and older, as the hospital isn’t set up to care for pediatric patients.
The joint statement pointed out that local EMS providers are increasing tied up responding to COVID-19 calls to 911, creating longer response times to other emergencies and tying up resources. The system is bogging down and could force EMS to divert emergency patients to other hospitals outside the county, which in turn which tie up resources even more.
The statement points out that infected people can isolate for 10 days, then return to work without written clearance from a doctor, according to Centers for Disease Control guidelines. The CDC’s recommendation is that the infected person isolate and – as long as they are fever free with minor symptoms improving (cough, loss of taste and smell) – they are cleared to return to work.
The city, county and hospitals have stepped up to manage this latest wave, with little outside help apparently.
“Up until the past few days, neither the state or federal government had offered much in support to help us respond to this latest surge. That left Cooke County, the City of Gainesville and our local hospitals to respond as best as we could to the sudden increase of COVID-19,” according to the statement.
“The group has worked cohesively and managed to deal with the spike in COVID-19 patients, but as the numbers keep increasing, there is a possibility that the demand could overload our ability to care for all those who need it.”