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Amarillo mayor: City not ready to reopen


Last updated 4/28/2020 at 4:24pm

AMARILLO — City of Amarillo officials, as well as local medical professionals, spoke about the possibility of the Amarillo City Council extending the city’s disaster declaration order during its meeting Tuesday.

According to state health officials, there were 488 active cases of the virus in Potter and Randall counties on Monday. This was an increase of 82 cases from Sunday.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said she does not believe Amarillo is ready to reopen.

“We are still seeing our numbers increase, and that makes it challenging,” she said. “We need to see them plateau and decrease for a period of time before we really can begin the reopening conversation.”

Scott Milton, the city’s public health authority and an associate professor at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo, said he recommends city officials to continue to follow the data and track the number of new cases coming through on a daily basis.

Because of this, Milton believes it is too early at this point to lift the restrictions and for the city to continue the declaration.

Brian Weis, the chief medical officer at Northwest Texas Health Care System, has similar sentiments to Milton.

“Right now, the numbers are still not telling us that we can back off too much on these precautions,” Weis said. “Particularly, since we are just continuing to see a rise in our numbers and (when you) look at other spots in the country, they want to see 14 days of declining numbers before they really start pulling off some of these restrictions. We are still on the wrong side of the curve right now.”

At Northwest Texas Health Care System, Weis said there were 62 patients in the hospital which were COVID-19 related, with 39 of those positive for the virus and 23 people under investigation.

Weis said that 2/3 of the critical care beds are occupied and half of the available ventilators are in use, 75 percent of which are related to COVID-19 patients.

“It’s very concerning, particularly because these are not patients that go into a critical care unit for two or three days,” Weis said. “On average, most of these patients are going seven to 10 days in a critical care facility. That’s the problem because we are constantly working on how we increase that capacity, not only in terms of just beds but staff that can take care of those patients ... It’s a challenge right now, and we think that is still our biggest vulnerability at the moment.”

The majority of the patients coming into Northwest Texas Health Care System are individuals from the JBS Plant in Moore County, as well as individuals from the Texas Department of Criminal Justices’ Clements Unit in Potter County.

Nelson encouraged Amarillo residents to continue to do their part, staying indoors and continuing to wear masks and social distance when they are out of the house.

“We are staying in, in order to keep other people healthy,” Nelson said. “When we get these hotspots under control, I believe our numbers will start to go down. That’s when we can begin to embrace what our new normal looks like.”


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