Delta variant confirmed in McCulloch County

by James Stewart

Word of the first cases of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus became official this past week as the first confirmed cases were reported back from state testing facilities.

According to a release from the Heart of Texas Healthcare System, two of three samples sent off for testing came back positive.

“These samples were actually sent to the state three weeks ago but the state lab is so backed up it took them three weeks to get us the results we believed all along,” said Tim Jones, administrator of the local hospital.

A rise in COVID cases across the state in recent weeks has reached the point where it is now having a direct impact on healthcare in our county. As of Tuesday morning, two patients at the local hospital had been on standby to be transferred to next level of care with potentially life-threatening conditions—but calls to more than 24 other hospitals have not been fruitful in finding availability in surgically equipped hospitals.

“This is right here and now making a life-threatening situation for these patients,” said Jones. “Even though it’s not COVID cases we are treating, it’s a direct result of the lack of medical staff across the state having to care for the increased number of folks in the hospitals.”

As of noon Tuesday, Jones said the hospital had two patients still in-house that require next level care due to their serious medical conditions.

“We’ve literally called hospitals from Amarillo to Orange and not been able to get these two cases transferred and they could be in grave medical danger if we can’t get them transferred.

“It’s not about the technology, but rather it’s due directly to the shortage of healthcare professionals available to treat folks in the hospital.”

Gov. Greg Abbott just Monday evening finally ramped up his efforts to procure federal assistance to bolster the healthcare workforce.
According to reports shared in a conference call with medical directors at Shannon Hospital in San Angelo which serves as the main transfer facility for the region, that hospital had 54 inpatients with COVID related illness with 80 percent of those cases occurring in unvaccinated individuals.

“Last week there were 637 positives in San Angelo and 60 percent of those positives tested were below the age of 40,” said Jones.

As a state, Texas currently has a 50 percent vaccination ratio but according to TDHS numbers, McCulloch County currently only has 27 percent of the population that have received the vaccination.

“The vaccinations are free and readily available, all it takes is a phone call to the Medical Clinic and a trip up here,” said Jones.
Treatment of the delta variant of the virus follows the same protocol as for the original COVID strain. According to Dr. Doug Shultz, with Shannon Medical Clinic, if caught early, treatment options begin with steroid followed by rendesivir then anti-coagulation therapy. After that, monoclonal antibodies administered within the first 10 days of onset prove to be most effective in treating cases.

“We can administer some of those treatments right here, but unfortunately, the cases we’ve seen thus far have either been minimally symptomatic or completely at the other end of the spectrum and require inpatient care to the point of needing a ventilator. Each patient is different and it all depends upon catching it early.”

According to Dr. Shultz, Shannon has given more than 1,000 of monoclonal antibodies treatments since the pandemic started and those treatments have been most effective.

“If a patient gets COVID, and if they aren’t bad, we can do some of the preliminary treatments here but the problem with local treatment thus far is that the patients are either not all that sick or too bad to the point that they need critical care and require care far beyond outpatient care,” said Jones.

Jones also stated that tertiary care hospitals have the knowledge and their doctors know what to do—they just simply don’t have the staff and that is a direct result of staffing shortages.

“This is reaching another critical point that is going to cost lives either directly or indirectly due to the large number of unvaccinated folks, many who are under the age of 40.

If you want the vaccine, call 325-597-2114. Brady Medical Clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

James long
Brady Communications