Nearly 20 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital on Tuesday as hospital officials voted to purchase a new monitoring system for the intensive care unit to be able to slightly expand bed capacity for the seriously ill.

The state on Wednesday afternoon added three more cases and a fatality to Nacogdoches County’s totals, with active cases now estimated at 80.

Memorial Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Kristine Sutton told board members Tuesday night that the hospital had 19 patients being treated for the coronavirus, and had admitted 96 patients with COVID-19 during October.

“We’re pretty much maxed out with our COVID capacity right now. That is not a good thing. The community seems like it’s having a little spike,” she said.

Sutton did not say how many of those patients were in intensive care, but noted that ICU capacity had been limited because of aging equipment. Board members voted unanimously to to purchase 14 new monitors for the department at a cost of around $244,000.

“We should have done this a long time ago,” board member Lisa King said.

The hospital’s intensive care unit is set up for 16 beds, but has only been able to house 10 to 12 patients during the coronavirus pandemic. The monitors in use in the ICU are around 25 years old and replacement parts and cables are no longer available.

“Dr. (Ahmmed) Hashim has found lots of stuff on eBay to help us limp along since COVID started,” Sutton said.

The nearly quarter million dollars used to upgrade the monitors should be covered by coronavirus relief funding received by the hospital.

“I can’t imagine ICU monitors taking care of COVID patients wouldn’t be justified,” board president Dr. Ryan Head said. “If that doesn’t fall under justification, I’m not sure what would.”

A total of 32 COVID-19 patients were being treated in both local hospitals on Wednesday, according to numbers posted by the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council, with eight of those in intensive care.

Local officials are monitoring the COVID-19 hospitalization rate in Trauma Service Area H, which includes Nacogdoches, Angelina, San Augustine, Sabine, Tyler, Polk and San Jacinto counties. Gov. Greg Abbott last month allowed restaurant, retail and other venues to open at 75% so long as they are not in areas with more than 15% COVID-19 hospitalizations for seven days or more. This week, the East Texas counties has a rate of 8.9%.

Since the virus arrived in March, the majority of the now 1,803 local cases confirmed in Nacogdoches are presumed recovered.

Staff writer Nicole Bradford contributed to this report.

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