Vaccines going smoothly, health officials sayMCH will no longer give out daily death updates

Medical Center Health System and Odessa Regional Medical Center have vaccinated a total of 998 healthcare workers during the past 24 hours, with only one employee experiencing a minor fever, representatives from both hospitals announced during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
That whirlwind pace is expected to continue throughout the week as the hospitals strive to vaccinate as many healthcare workers as quickly as possible, MCHS Chief Nursing Officer Christen Timmons said.
“We’ve vaccinated a total of 945 people in the last 24 hours,” said Timmons, who noted that one nurse developed a slight fever after receiving the vaccine. The nurse was briefly placed under observation and has recovered. “Everything has gone pretty smoothly.”
ORMC officials said 54 employees were vaccinated as of Tuesday afternoon. Both hospitals received their first vaccine shipments on Monday.
MCHS CEO Russell Tippin announced during the press conference that his hospital will immediately discontinue providing COVID-19 patient and death updates to the general public. Instead, the hospital will only share that information with the Ector County Health Department, which releases very limited COVID-19-related information and sometimes goes days before updating information.
ORMC, a private hospital, does not share COVID-19-related death information, such as patient deaths with the public. They do share that information with the county, which does not disclose that quickly but rather updates the county website sporadically.
Some have have regularly criticized the county’s lack of transparency and absence in addressing challenges posed locally during the pandemic. No one from the county joined the Zoom call on Tuesday.
“The County is supposed to be the hub of authority for COVID-19,” Tippin said. “It is supposed to be the county’s responsibility to provide information to the public.
“(MCHS) has done its best to be transparent and inform the public. But we felt it was time to move forward.”
Tippin said MCHS administrators want to focus on the vaccination process.
MCHS’s decision to discontinue releasing COVID-19 hospital data comes less than a week after Ector County health authority Dr. B.A. Jinadu announced that the county would take the lead in distributing the vaccinations. Jinadu made his comments during a December 17 press conference that was attended by Tippin and ORMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rohith Saravanan.
Jinadu did not participate in Tuesday’s press conference. He and other county officials have rarely participated in the weekly briefings held between local media and health officials during the past nine months after early on being criticized for a lack of transparency.
County officials, including Jinadu and Ector County Judge Judy Hayes, have remained largely invisible and silent since COVID-19 arrived in Odessa. Other health officials and City Mayor David Turner have said the county has rarely been involved in addressing COVID efforts.
Hayes has not returned more than a half-dozen calls seeking comment.
On Tuesday, Saravanan explained that the vaccination is a process that must be conducted over a two-month period. After healthcare workers, nursing home residents and employees and other high-risk residents will start receiving the vaccination.
The lengthy process is why the vaccinations won’t begin being offered to the general public until February or March, Saravanan said.
“We’re still a big way out from getting to the (general) public,” Saravanan said. “But we’re taking a step in the right direction. The light is getting brighter at the end of the tunnel.”
ORMC CEO Stacey Brown said the hospital on Tuesday had 33 COVID-19 patients – a higher than normal number for them. Sixteen of those patients were in critical condition and 10 patients were on ventilators.
MCHS reported 70 patients Tuesday, 10-20 fewer than they’ve averaged during the past month. Twenty-nine of those are listed in critical condition, 26 are on ventilators, Tippin said.
In their final report, MCHS announced over the past weekend that two COVID-19 patients had died – bringing the hospital’s total deaths since March to 171.