Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County sees uptick in COVID-19 cases, however most cases are mild

Stephens County sees uptick in COVID-19 cases, however most cases are mild
July 11
08:41 2022

By Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the country and state, Stephens County is also beginning to see a slight uptick of cases locally. However, the number of cases and the severity of the cases are nowhere near where they were during the height of the pandemic, according to Chris Curtis, director of new business for Stephens Memorial Hospital, who tracks COVID cases for Stephens County.

Counting the cases

As of Friday, July 8, there were 12 lab-confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Stephens County. However, Curtis said that is a very conservative number, since so many people have home test kits provided by the government.

“There are a lot of people that are testing positive at home, and their providers are treating them,” he said. “I don’t really have a way to track those as positive cases. They do it at home, and I don’t get any of that information. So the 12 are just ones that we’ve done that are lab-confirmed cases. But, again, that’s going to be a conservative number.”

Curtis also said the patients they are seeing now with COVID-19 don’t seem to be as sick as the patients they were seeing earlier in the pandemic.

“The people that we have seen have not been that sick,” he said. “A vast majority of them have come in swearing they have allergies. We haven’t seen… like the sick, sick people coming in, feeling like death…A lot of these people are wanting to come in for an allergy shot, because they think it’s just allergies.”

As for which variants of COVID-19 are currently active locally, Curtis said they have no way of knowing. Testing for that takes a very complicated process, he said, and there is only one lab in Texas, the state lab, that can make that determination.

“So, we…just have to kind of go with whatever the trend is, what the info is that’s rolling down from the state,” he said. “We have absolutely no way to know definitively.”

Currently no local hospitalizations

Curtis said currently there are no patients hospitalized at SMH because of COVID-19, and it has been a long time since they’ve had any cases in the hospital. He said a couple of months ago they had a patient in the hospital with COVID, but they weren’t really that sick. However, he said, they have seen an increase in the difficulty in finding beds at other hospitals, like in Abilene, to transfer patients to for non-COVID related issues.

“It’s not like it was before, but it is kind of creeping in that direction,” he said. “We’ve had to send some people up to facilities in Fort Worth…for non COVID-related stuff.”

Vaccine availability

For anyone wanting to get vaccinated, Curtis said COVID-19 vaccinations still readily available in Breckenridge. He said currently the Breckenridge Medical Center is referring people to the local pharmacies since the clinic has used all the vaccine in their stock. However, he said, both Walmart and CVS have the vaccine and there is still no charge for the vaccines.

For anybody wanting to find out more information about how to make an appointment at CVS or Walmart to get vaccinated, they can either call the local pharmacy or sign up through their websites. The pharmacies also offer walk-in vaccinations during their normal business hours.

Curtis said the BMC clinic also has plenty of the home testing kits available for anybody that wants some. “If anybody wants a home test kit, they can just come by, pull up in front of the clinic and call, and they’ll run you some out,” he said.

Curtis said that although their clinic has used their stock of allotted vaccines and is no longer offering the vaccinations on Wednesday afternoons, if the demand picks up again, they can order more and go back to doing the vaccines on Wednesday afternoons. “We just haven’t had a demand for vaccines,” he said.

As for how many people in Stephens County have been vaccinated, he said that as of Friday, July 7, there were 3,417 people in Stephens County ages 5 and up, or about 36 percent of the county’s population, who are considered fully vaccinated.

Current COVID-19 protocols still in place at the clinic and hospital

Visitors and patients who come to Stephens Memorial Hospital and the Breckenridge Medical Clinic are still required to wear a mask inside the facilities. Curtis said they are still following the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID-19 guidelines, which require wearing the mask.

“We never have stopped wearing masks in the hospital,” he said. “Some facilities did, but (the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) and CDC never changed their guidance on that. So, if you’re in the facility, you have to wear masks.”

He also said the clinic is still following the screening protocols for patients who are showing signs of COVID-19.

“We swab them in their car if they have any signs or symptoms, and then they stay in their car,” he said. “And if the test is negative, then they will come into the clinic. But if it’s positive, then the provider does a phone visit and treats them that way to limit exposure.”

Regular doctor appointments and things like that at the clinic are pretty much back to normal as far as protocol but still require wearing a mask in the building, he said.

“We’re doing a lot of kids getting their immunizations, getting ready to go back to school and that type of stuff,” Curtis said. “And we are still seeing flu, you know, a couple flus a week, which is kind of strange.”

More prepared now

It’s been a little more than two years since the start of the pandemic, and Curtis said they are much more prepared than when it first started.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “We know a lot more. You know, at the beginning, we were learning as we went, and we have access to a lot more resources now. In the beginning…we didn’t even have a vaccine, much less…gowns and masks and stuff. It was…chaos. But now, you know, even if we had a spike, it wouldn’t get to the chaotic level. Really, our main problem would be transferees. We can handle everything else.”

He said now they are also well stocked with Personal Protection Equipment, such as gowns and masks.

“We’ve got it running out our ears now. You know, there at the beginning, we couldn’t get a hold of it, now we’ve got…tons,” he said. “Even if it does surge, we’re not going to panic. We’ve got all of the equipment to make a COVID hall if we need to; we’ve got all of the pieces that we need. So it is just ‘turn all that back on,’ basically. I would absolutely prefer not to, but it wouldn’t be as chaotic.”

Even with all the changes that have occurred, however, Curtis said the protocols for preventing the spread of COVID-19 have stayed the same.

“(It’s) the same, you know, masking and staying away from people that are sick,” he said.

Future COVID-19 Updates on Facebook

Curtis said he will post updates on the SMH Facebook page when the number of confirmed cases reaches 10 or more cases. If they are under 10, he won’t post them, but he said he is constantly tracking the cases.

“Anytime we hit 10 or more, I post an update, because I think that usually when we hit 10 and (the numbers) start to climb, that’s a good indicator,” he said. “Although a couple weeks ago we hit 10 and then just almost immediately dropped down and didn’t climb.”

Although there is currently no spike in COVID-19 cases, locally, Curtis said people need to keep in mind that it’s still out there. “It’s still floating around, so people don’t need to just completely forget it,” he said.



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