COVID cases down, concerns remain high

The number of COVID-19 cases continue to steadily decrease, but Odessa area health officials remain concerned that those numbers will shoot back up during the upcoming holidays.

Similar surges occurred locally at this time last year, Medical Center Hospital President and CEO Russell Tippin said during a Monday Zoom news conference.

“Our numbers do look better,” Tippin said. “But we’re preparing ourselves for some spikes again after Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We hope we don’t see that again, but that’s what happened last year.”

On Monday, MCH reported 42 COVID patients, with 17 of those in critical condition and 14 on ventilators, MCHS Director of Public Relations Trevor Tankersley said. Twelve of those on ventilators have not been vaccinated, two have been vaccinated and two patients’ vaccination status is unknown.

Odessa Regional Medical Center President Stacey Brown reported 17 COVID patients at the hospital on Monday, with seven in critical condition and four on ventilators.

Earlier this past summer the number of COVID patients at MCH rocketed to more than 100 people, while numbers at ORMC soared between 30 and 40 per day.

The rate of COVID-related deaths has also decreased at both hospitals during the past two months, Tippin and Brown said.

MCH recorded seven deaths in September and three so far in October, Tippin said. This past summer the monthly death toll had climbed to 40.

Brown said ORMC recorded 13 COVID-related deaths in September and two in October so far.

Health officials credited people continuing to wear face coverings and practicing social distancing for the decrease in COVID cases.

Unfortunately, Ector County residents continue to lag behind the state average for getting vaccinated, ORMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rohith Saravanan said.

According to the Texas Department of Public Health website, about 47 percent of Ector County residents have been vaccinated for COVID.

The number of people vaccinated county-wide has increased by about 7 percent during the past 10 months, despite massive vaccination efforts by ORMC, MCH, various health clinics, the county’s health department, local pharmacies and the city. Statewide, approximately 63 percent of Texans have been vaccinated.

A community needs to attain a level of 70-80 percent vaccination rate to reach herd immunity, Saravanan said.

MCH and ORMC officials also encouraged residents to get their flu vaccinations soon. The number of reported flu cases was down significantly last year, Saravanan said.

“We do see respiratory virus popping up already,” Saravanan said. “We didn’t see a strong flu season last year due to (more people wearing face coverings and using hand sanitizer).

“We don’t want to see what happens if we get two viruses at the same time.”