Nacogdoches County intensive care units remained filled beyond capacity with COVID-19 patients Wednesday morning.
Hospitals added four temporary ICU beds, bringing capacity to 26 from the typical 22. COVID-19 patients filled 23 of those beds Wednesday morning, according to South East Texas Regional Advisor Council, a regional health care coalition.
Overflowing ICUs can have dire consequences for people who are involved in serious car crashes or face other medical emergencies like stroke.
“Patients have to hold in the emergency room. Hospitals have to find them an ICU bed and either put them in an ambulance or on a helicopter to somewhere else,” said Nacogdoches Fire Chief Keith Kiplinger said.
Cases of the virus continued to surge over the weekend and into the week as Nacogdoches County’s record number of infections climbs. Active cases — patients considered to be contagious — were at 745 Wednesday morning, up 81 from the 664 cases reported Friday afternoon, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“That’s the most by far that it’s been since the very beginning of this,” Kiplinger said.
Before the recent surge, active cases here topped out around 500 in January.
Late last month, a monoclonal antibody infusion center opened in Nacogdoches. For the treatment to be effective, health experts say, it must be started within 10 days of the onset of symptoms.
“They’re doing lots of infusions. That’s why the hospitals haven’t crashed,” said Kiplinger, who is in charge with logistics for the local COVID-19 response.
Sixty-one COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Wednesday morning — around 37% of the 164 total local hospitalizations split between Nacogdoches Medical Center and Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital. Just over 8% of all active COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Wednesday.
Public officials around the nation have said the vast majority of those hospitalized from the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus are unvaccinated. The same is true for Nacogdoches County, local health care officials have said.
Around 53% of Nacogdoches County residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Just shy of 43% are fully vaccinated. To find out more information about vaccines and providers visit tinyurl.com/vacnac.
“The vaccines are widely available,” Kiplinger said.
As the delta variant spreads, more people seem to be interested in receiving a vaccine, which has caused local officials to expand public shot clinics though October, Kiplinger said.
A clinic set for Friday at the C.L. Simon Recreation Center, 1112 North St., had more than 100 patients signed up by Monday afternoon.
“I figure we’ll do 300 on Friday again,” Kiplinger said. “We have enough vaccine to do 3,000 if they wanted,”
The city and county on Monday announced a partnership with HealthTrackRx to launch a temporary COVID-19 testing site at the county expo center, 3805 NW Stallings Drive. Drive-thru testing will be available at no cost to the patient as early as Wednesday.
The site will operate seven days a week from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. Appointments are encouraged and can be made by selecting a day and time in the online portal at https://bit.ly/testatngs.
There is no out of pocket expense for the testing, however insured patients are asked to bring their insurance card so HealthTrackRx may file and be reimbursed for offering the testing service.
The PCR test, also called a molecular test, is conducted with a nasal swab while the patient remains in the car. Results can be expected within 24 hours.
The testing site will remain open through Sept. 30. COVID-related questions can be directed to 936-468-4787.