• November 27, 2020

Community should be alarmed - Odessa American: City Of Odessa

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Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2020 5:45 pm

The city of Odessa will immediately begin issuing $250 fines to businesses who don’t comply with current state guidelines requiring people to wear masks in public places, Mayor David Turner announced during a Tuesday press conference.

Turner’s announcement comes as COVID-19 cases continue to spiral out of control in Ector County. Turner said if COVID rates still continue to rise, he is prepared to use his authority to enact an ordinance that would severely limit the number of customers businesses can serve.

“In seven days, I’m prepared to sign an ordinance that would limit businesses’ capacity to 50 percent,” Turner said during the press conference, which also included local health officials. “I wish I could sign that ordinance today.”

COVID-19 positivity rates leaped to 21.39 percent this past Saturday – the highest rate Ector County has seen, Turner said. On Monday, that rate had decreased slightly to 20.20 percent.

COVID-19 guidelines detail that if a community’s positivity rates remain higher than 15 percent for seven consecutive days, local officials have the legal ability to pass the ordinance, Turner said.

“We don’t want to do this, but what we’re doing right now isn’t working,” Turner said. “The city is looking at closing all athletic facilities. People have got to realize this virus is taking people’s lives.”

Turner made his announcement just hours after city council met and agreed that it would be impossible to enforce a mask mandate. The council discussed using fire marshals to issue tickets to violators, but did not officially vote to do so. Turner said during the press conference that the council did agree to use city staff, just not police to enforce the mask rule.

On Tuesday, Medical Center Health System reported its 110th COVID-19 related death, a 59-year-old male.

Even the Ector County Health Department, which has remained mostly silent during the COVID crisis and has not participated in the weekly press conferences with city officials, local healthcare leaders and the media, indicated Tuesday that they are alarmed at the virus’s growth.

The Department issued a press release on Tuesday indicating that the Medical Examiner’s Office has asked the state for a mobile morgue to store the overflow of dead bodies piling up locally. The mobile morgue would be shared by the medical examiner’s office and local hospitals like Medical Center Hospital and Odessa Regional Medical Center, according to the press release.

Medical Center Hospital CEO Russell Tippin said on Tuesday that MCH’s morgue is already full. He reported that on just Tuesday, 93 out of 102 people tested positive for COVID – 24 of those people were on ventilators.

“This is a big number for the medical center,” said Tippin who acknowledged that some patients are currently being housed in the emergency room because there are no more beds available.

The hospital is currently using three floors to house COVID patients and preparing to add a fourth floor, he said. In addition, 74 medical staff are not working because they have COVID or have been exposed to the virus.

ORMC CEO Stacey Brown reported Tuesday that her hospital currently has 27 patients, 16 of those in ICU and 10 on ventilators.

Twenty-four medical staff are currently not working because they have contracted COVID or been exposed to the virus, she said. The hospital on Tuesday was forced to open an additional unit to house the overflow of COVID patients.

The problem has become so severe that the county has announced it will not update COVID cases this week because they don’t have the manpower due to COVID-related illness.

ORMC’s Dr. Rohith Saravanan, said residents in the county need to recognize the severity of the problem.

“We’ve never been in a situation where we needed a mobile morgue to store bodies,” Saravanan said. “This should be alarming to the community.”

Odessa, TX

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