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County, SMH discuss area COVID-19 spike

Stephens County officials enacted Stage 4 restrictions last Friday, after a spike in area COVID-19 cases. This stage is the second highest of the five-stage Community Health Plan which was created last July in conjunction with Stephens Memorial Hospital and the city of Breckenridge, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Stephens County, Stage 4 restrictions recommend members of the community observe social distancing, urge mask wearing regardless of vaccination status, encourage proper hand hygiene and recommend no unnecessary travel.

The reason for the restriction is limited hospital capacity in the region and rapid community spread of COVID-19, according to a Facebook post made by the county Friday, July 30. The post also explained that the county is not locked down or enforcing a mask order, but does state that local health authorities strongly recommend the wearing of masks to limit the spread of the virus. The post states that bars and other establishments are not required to shut down and that there is no reason to “hoard” groceries and other essential items.

In a video posted by SMH, Gena Speer, Chief Nursing Officer for the hospital, gave an update on the current case conditions in the area.

“Based on what we’re seeing, we’ve been classified as a high risk area, which means we’re seeing widespread community transmission,” Speer explained. “We’re seeing alarming numbers of new cases coming in our ER, coming in our clinics, hearing about them in the community.”

Speer goes on to explain that the hospital is already facing capacity issues. When transferring patients, the hospital is struggling to find beds for patients, with and without COVID-19, in the surrounding area hospitals.

“Hospitals are already getting full. They’re already understaffed. The healthcare workforce has decreased with COVID,” Speer stated. “In fact, yesterday, we transferred patients to Amarillo and transferred one as far as New Mexico, just trying to find an ICU bed. That’s really concerning for us and our citizens.”

She explained that the patients they are unable to find beds for elsewhere are currently being cared for in the hospital’s emergency room, but went on to state why that is not ideal.

“... It’s not a horrible place to be, we do a great job with what we can do.… we don’t have ICU capabilities,” Speer explained. “That means that the longer they’re here, the longer it is before they’re getting the care they actually need, so it definitely increases the risk of death, increases the risk of complications, (which) means usually a longer illness...”

According to local health authorities, vaccines are the best defense to COVID-19 and are currently available in the county. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines or receiving a vaccine, call your doctor or pharmacy, or visit the DSHS website.

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Breckenridge American

114 East Elm Street

PO Box 871

Breckenridge, Texas 76424

Phone: (254) 559-5412
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