Lubbock prepares for economic recovery: Hospitals make changes


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the city of Lubbock has seen different trends including an increase in testing, changes in hospital operations and some decreases in virus case numbers.

City officials discussed these trends and plans to combat the virus during a virtual news conference Thursday.

Katherine Wells, director of the Lubbock Health Department, said there are 470 COVID-19 cases in Lubbock County as of Wednesday.

The county’s total number of COVID-19-related deaths reached 39 people, Wells said. Thirty-five of those deaths are associated with local nursing homes. Additionally, a total of 143 Lubbock patients have recovered from the virus.

Dr. Ronald Cook, local health authority, said Lubbock is doing better in different ways. The doubling time, which is the amount of time it takes for the number of positive COVID-19 cases to double, has increased, Cook said.

Regarding nursing homes, the doubling time is around 72 days, while previously, it was around five days at the beginning of April, Cook said. For Lubbock overall, the doubling time is 25 days.

“The mayor and his team, the Economic Recovery Taskforce, are putting together a wonderful plan for us to slow down or decrease the orders that we have where we can get out a little bit more,” he said. “Our concern is, for the health department, is that this graph can suddenly nosedive.”

If the doubling time does decrease, Cook said people will need to back up and reassess measures to reopen businesses.

Currently, local hospitals are seeing different trends regarding COVID-19-related issues.

Mike Ragain, University Medical Center senior vice president and chief medical officer, said the hospital is doing well overall.

The hospital is currently caring for 16 in-patients with COVID-19, which decreased from a total of 22 in-patients on April 12, Ragain said. Through UMC, almost 5,000 cars have been screened, and call centers have received over 4,000 calls.

“We are very excited about a new therapy available in the community,” he said. We’re providing convalescent plasma treatment in conjunction with [Dr. Steven Berk] in the School of Medicine at [the Tech Health Sciences Center], and we have five patients enrolled in that national trial.”

In addition, Ragain said UMC is now able to test on four different in-patient platforms for the PCR test or the nasal swab. The institution also is moving onto blood testing for COVID-19 antibodies, which should be available at the end of the week.

Richard Parks, Covenant Health president and CEO, said there are 11 patients in the institution’s COVID-19 unit and four in the COVID-19 intensive care unit.

Regarding testing, Covenant has done about 2,200 tests, and 194 positive COVID-19 cases have come out of those tests.

Ragain said the COVID-19 case volume is declining and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made executive orders, so visitation policies will consist of one visitor per day, per patient and elective procedures are beginning at UMC. Elective surgeries will start May 9.

Covenant staff also is working to determine what type of cases need to be conducted, Parks said.

“We can resume all cases, including elective cases, for patients at Covenant Health ministries,” he said.

Non-COVID-19 patients will be tested before their procedure as a safety precaution, Parks said.

Despite the efforts to combat the virus, Parks said Lubbock is in a good place, as less than three percent of hospitalized patients at Covenant are positive for COVID-19. Of that three percent, 81 percent have no symptoms or mild symptoms and recovered very nicely.

With some decreasing case numbers and plans to reopen businesses, wearing facial coverings also has been a topic people may want to know more about.

When considering a facial covering, Cook said there are three types: the ones that typically consist of two layers of cloth, surgical masks and N95 masks, which block up to 95 percent of particles.

“As we continue to relax our standing orders, social distancing and opening up the stores in Lubbock, let me strongly encourage you to wear some kind of facial covering,” he said.

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said it is important to get business restarted in Lubbock. The Lubbock Economic Recovery Taskforce is meeting Friday to put together an initial recommendation on how to start reopening businesses and recovering the economy.

Sometime Thursday, Pope said the city will post information on the City of Lubbock COVID-19 dashboard regarding demographic data, such as the number of cases among different ethnicities, genders, ages and county zip codes.In addition, there are three metrics the city is studying to make decisions on how to help the economy: daily active cases, daily new cases and daily hospital data, which consists of hospital capacity versus hospital usage.

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