• April 2, 2020

Odessa COVID-19 numbers still a mystery - Odessa American: Local News

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Odessa COVID-19 numbers still a mystery

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Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2020 5:27 pm

Why haven’t more people in EctorCounty been tested for the virus that was classified a pandemic last week?

Ector County Health Department Director Brandy Garcia said that as of Monday afternoon that her department was aware of 35 people being tested here with 14 tests coming back negative and that they await the results of the other 21.

 “I do want to stress that these numbers that we have may vary because there are private labs and if physicians in the private labs are doing testing, they are to report the results to us only. So we may not exactly know what is pending at this time.”

CBS7 reported that there were 149 coronavirus tests in Midland awaiting results on Tuesday or Wednesday. By press time Tuesday, there were three confirmed positives and one death.

On Tuesday, one by one officials made opening statements including Mayor David Turner who announced that a friend of his had died in Midland from the virus and said that the virus is serious although the death rate is “very low.”

Many questions addressed that while most areas are following the lead of both President Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott by having daily press briefings, here in Odessa information has been hard to come by as questions must be submitted and then they may or may not be answered every 48 hours or so.

When asked why Ector County’s test numbers were so low compared to Midland’s, Garcia added that private testing is being done and the Health Department may not have all of those numbers and said that she couldn’t answer as to why Midland was able to complete more tests.

Both hospitals in EctorCounty are conducting private and public tests, Garcia said. Garcia addressed what EctorCounty is trying to do to get more tests done and said MedicalCenter is using the urgent cares to test. For public labs, she said test results take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to get while private labs take anywhere from three to five days.

Garcia also addressed why Medical Center professionals aren’t allowed to handle more information being dispersed saying, “The Health Department is limited on what staff we have because we are all trying to work on this particular incident and we want to make sure that in the event that we do need to utilize everybody,” she said that would be something they would be considering going forward.

The City of Odessa’s PIO then waived Garcia off the stage.

MCH President and CEO Russell Tippin said that as far as being more involved in the process of releasing information, they are, “Staying in their lane.”

“Right now what we’re trying to project and to give to our community is cooperation with our other entities.” He said that at this time MedicalCenter is doing what they think is best for the patients. Tippin also said that MCH is only going to allow visitors to use three entrances at the Emergency Department for ER patients only, the Center for Women and Infants for OB patients only and the Main Registration area is for all other patients.

MCH Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons said that MCH is limiting their hours of visitation, and if a patient has a temperature then they have to give them a mask and they are continuing to receive shipments of masks.

“We are setting up a process so that you can reuse your mask after a certain period of time unless it is soiled. We’re providing them the means in order to store their masks so that they can wear that again later in the afternoon if need be.” She said that they are following CDC guidelines to make sure everyone has what they need at the time they need it.

Ector County Judge Debi Hays, who has not responded to phone calls or in person interviews in more than a week, explained that the Emergency Management Plan is a group of city and county officials in hospitals and education that come together and discuss what community and individual needs are.

She said that there is a logistics area that will start meeting Wednesday.  “So that we as a group can learn to communicate with each other, learn how to push down information to the media.” Hays added that the group will be working on statistic reports that will come from those officials, which would still be funneled through the city’s PIO.

Interestingly, Hays referred questions about the jail and game rooms to Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis. She said as an elected official he is free to answer questions about his response to the COVID-19.

Hays did not address why Griffis was free to answer questions but that she and Turner were relying on press releases every 48 hours or so and why those releases are vetted by multiple people on the response team.

“Our goal is to do those every single day,” she said of news releases. “I think and hope by the end of this week we will have achieved that goal.”

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