Odessa COVID cases quadruple in three weeks

COVID-19 cases have nearly quadrupled in Odessa during the past three weeks, further alarming local health officials who fear another spike is around the corner.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, as of Tuesday there were an estimated 600 active COVID-19 cases in Ector County. There were 163 cases reported locally on July 12.

Medical Center Health System officials on Wednesday said the state data mirrors the increase in cases they are seeing.

“At this time last month, we only had four COVID patients and now we’re at 48,” MCHS Director of Public Relations Trevor Tankersley said Wednesday. “Yes, it would be safe to say that numbers continue to increase.”

MCHS on Wednesday reported 48 COVID patients in-house, with 24 people listed in critical care, 16 on ventilators and one in pediatrics. Nineteen COVID patients are being housed on the hospital’s main COVID floor and another four have been placed on another floor used to house an overflow of patients.

Five of the hospital’s current COVID patients were already vaccinated, but none of those patients are in critical care or on a ventilator, Tankersley reported.

MCHS President and CEO Russell Tippin said his hospital is preparing itself for another surge not seen since at least March.

“We are monitoring the current situation,” Tippin said Wednesday. “Our staff is really toeing the line to make sure we are ready for a surge.

“MCH has been leading the way through COVID and will continue to provide the highest level of patient care.  If you are not vaccinated, we encourage you to do so. We want everyone to keep themselves, our patients and our staff as safe as possible when it comes to fighting this deadly virus.”

Odessa Regional Medical Center on Wednesday reported only two COVID patients in the intensive care unit, with one of them on a ventilator.

ORMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rohith Saravanan said he is seeing COVID numbers increase throughout the region, including Odessa.

“The main reason for (ORMC’s) low census is that we are currently short on ‘reverse isolation ICU capable’ bed capacity,” Saravanan said. “We will have some new beds open and staffed in the next two weeks. So, we are not able to take incoming COVID ICU transfers at this time.”

Health officials at MCHS and ORMC for weeks have been pleading with residents to get vaccinated. Only about 40 percent of Ector County residents have so far been vaccinated — half the number officials say is needed to reach herd immunity.

The biggest challenge the community faces is convincing people to get vaccinated, Saravanan said recently.

“To really be able to say that COVID can no longer survive in our community, we would need to reach an 80 percent vaccination rate,” Saravanan said.