Gov. Greg Abbott directs state resources to Amarillo, Lubbock to help COVID-19 surge response

Texas Politics
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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is sending state resources to areas where COVID-19 is surging.

He said Friday the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas Division of Emergency Management are getting medical personnel, supplies and personal protective equipment to both Amarillo and Lubbock areas to help those areas in their COVID-19 response.

Gov. Abbott says DSHS sent 171 medical workers to the areas already with 100 more on the way by Sunday. The department also sent 100 IV pumps, 56 ventilators and 25 oxygen concentrators to help area hospitals.

“As the Amarillo and Lubbock communities see a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, the State of Texas is providing support to hospitals throughout these two regions,” Gov. Abbott said. “The additional medical personnel, supplies, and PPE surged to the Panhandle and South Plains will help these communities care for patients and contain the spread of this virus.”

Lubbock reported 237 new cases Thursday, and there are currently 192 people hospitalized and the area has an 11.8% positivity rate.

In the Amarillo area, there are 3,509 active COVID-19 cases across Potter and Randall counties and the intensive care units are 88.5% full.

The hospitalization rates as of Thursday evening were 14.29% in the Lubbock area and 13.38% in the Amarillo area, both nearing the 15% benchmark Abbott and other state health leaders are using as metrics for economic reopening.

“We have been optimistic for the last couple of months, and you know, things have certainly been improving, but we started to see a bit of a reversal in that now,” Chris Van Deusen, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services said Friday. “We just need folks to kind of recognize and realize that, that this thing isn’t over yet.”

The extra medical workers are deploying to West Texas through a contract between the state and medical staffing firms, Van Deusen confirmed.

Abbott surged state resources to El Paso on Monday after that region reported a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. COVID-19 accounted for 20.9% of the region’s hospitalizations heading into the weekend, sparking El Paso’s mayor to roll back business occupancy.

“We will continue to surge resources to the El Paso region, ’til the time that El Paso has COVID contained,” Abbott said in El Paso on Thursday.

This is the second time Amarillo has turned into a hot spot, after a viral outbreak tied to meat-processing facilities in the spring.

“If we can provide more staff that can provide, you know, care for COVID patients in those areas, it just helps make sure that people can get hospital care for anything that they need, even as we see more and more people seeking care for COVID-19 in El Paso and the panhandle areas in general,” Van Deusen said.

Friday also marked the deadline for states to submit their first COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Van Deusen said Texas normally receives 10% of vaccine allocations from the federal government based on population. He expected that to be the same this time around.

“It’s by no means set in stone by that point, there’s still a lot of things we don’t know about the vaccine,” Van Deusen said. “First and foremost we don’t know when it’s going to arrive, We don’t know how much is going to be made available nationally, to Texas at this point, and it really is contingent of course on the trials that are ongoing now.”

He said the current state plan calls for healthcare providers and people at higher risk of infection or complications with COVID-19 will be first to receive the vaccine once it is approved. Those on the front lines working in essential services are also expected to have a chance to get the vaccine first.

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