Lubbock officials warn city close to shutdown order from Governor Abbott

On Thursday, Oct. 15, the City of Lubbock officials and local hospital administrators discussed the recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

As of the press conference, 14,675 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Lubbock county. 12,518 are recovered cases while 2,005 are active cases, with the death toll at 159 people. 

Katherine Wells, director of the Lubbock Health Department, said  the health department reported the largest number of news cases, 311 cases, on Oct. 14. The city has also seen an increase of cases over the past few days, with the health department reporting over 200 cases a day, Wells said.

"We are really seeing spread when individuals are letting their guard down. We are not seeing spread in workplaces or schools where everybody's wearing masks, and we're practicing social distancing," Wells said. "The places that we're seeing spread are at birthday parties, dinner parties, large celebrations, such as weddings, clubs, and dance halls, crowded restaurants."

Indoor events or gatherings are where the health department and contact tracing has seen spread of the virus, Well said. Contact tracing teams have also seen several people who have ignored physicians orders to isolate, Wells said. 

Dr. Craig Ryan, regional chief medical officer for Covenant Health, said that the Texas Gov. Greg Abbot looks at hospital data reported by regional advisory councils called Trauma Service Areas (TSA). The governor sees how many patients in the area are hospitalized due to COVID-19, Ryan said.

"As a TSA we're at about 13.3 hospitalization percentage of COVID-19, so we're dangerously close to being on the shutdown list in the governor's office," Ryan said.

The governor said that if a TSA percentage reaches 15 percent, then they will shut down that area, Ryan said.

Dr. Ronald Cook, local health authority, said that flu season is about to start and that the southern hemisphere has reported that a mild season this year. Cook said the reason for this is because of COVID-19 health guidelines in placed helped stopped the spread.

"Here's the bad news, flu in itself, kills lots of people every year, right in the last five years, we've had about 178,000 people in the United States die from flu," Cook said. "This year, in nine months we've had over 219 216,000 people die from COVID."

People are still not taking the virus as the should be and continue to think that that COVID-19 is comparable to the flu, Cook said. Herd immunity isn't an option, more people would have to die for it to be plausible, Cook said.

Dr. Mike Ragain, chief medical officer for University Medical Center, said that the hospitals are suffering from medical personnel getting sick. Ryan said that medical personnel are not getting sick from work but through social settings.

"We've done the contact tracing to verify that our hospitals have done incredible jobs with infection prevention," Ragain said. "To me that's one of the safest places on the planet to be because of the infection prevention things that we have going on, but there are finite resources, there are total numbers of beds that we can staff."

Hospitals can provide quality medical service, Ragain said, but if they don't have the staff, then they can not do their job. Ragain encouraged everyone to continue to follow the guidelines in place to help protect medical personnel.

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope passed his sympathies to families and individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19, and said that there is plenty of testing for the citizens to use. Pope said that everyone needs to follow the guidelines to protect everyone else.

"We need people to isolate when you test positive, or you've been exposed,"Pope said. You do that for yourself, you do if your family members, you do it for your neighbors."