Mineral Wells Area News

Omicron Likely In the County, Leads to Surge In Covid Cases Says ER Medical Director

Omicron Likely In the County, Leads to Surge In Covid Cases Says ER Medical Director
December 30
18:15 2021

Mineral Wells Area News spoke with Palo Pinto General Hospital’s Medical Director of Emergency Services Dr. John Jones to discuss the uptick in Covid cases in the community. Below are highlights from the interview.

PPGH Experiencing Rise in Covid

Amy Bearden: “Dr. Jones, what are you and your staff currently experiencing at the hospital?”

Dr. Jones: “I guess the first thing I would say is in the last week or two, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of COVID patients and a significant increase in the number of patients being seen period. We’ve started seeing some flu as well. And so there’s been a substantial increase of patients through the clinics and through the emergency department as well. The number of COVID patients is increasing over the last few weeks. You know, our big surge was kind of the end of July through the middle of September. Everything was full and patients were very severe. And that was just a really tough time. We are not to that level yet. But I would be real surprised if we don’t get to that level very soon. As far as the variant goes, you know, we are not doing the specific tests for Omicron, but I don’t think there’s any question that is here. I think that’s the reason for this substantial increase.

Amy Bearden: “How is the Omicron variant different?”

Dr. Jones: “It seems to be much more contagious, much more easily caught. And the incubation period seems to be shorter as well. So, you know, our earliest forms of COVID seem to take up to seven days from the time of exposure until the time of illness. When we ran into Delta, we were looking at an incubation period of probably four to five days. The incubation period with this particular variant seems to be as short as two days. Probably more the three day range, but a shorter incubation period means a more contagious virus that has led to increasing numbers and a steeper curve, if you will, in the last couple of weeks, and I think is going to continue for the near future anyway.

Amy Bearden: “Is the hospital prepared for another surge?”

Dr. Jones: “The hospital is as prepared for the surge as we can be, you know, our tertiary hospitals, our referral centers are full, it is virtually impossible to transfer a patient to a higher level of care right now. You know, our hospital doesn’t do heart cath, we don’t do dialysis. And those patients who show up in my emergency department right now, I’m having a real hard time getting them to the place of care that they need. Now, you know, we’re providing the care that we can, but it’s been very difficult to get people transferred. When that happens, patients back up into rural hospitals, that then increases our numbers in the hospital. And, you know, our staff is as prepared as we can be our staff is working hard to take care of patients. You know, I guess there’s always that possibility that we, like the bigger hospitals, will get overwhelmed. But it doesn’t change the fact that we’re gonna continue to do our jobs every day.

Amy Bearden: “Obviously New Year’s Eve is upon us, what are your thoughts on people gathering together to celebrate and what advice would you have?”

Dr. Jones: “Well, I guess my first advice would be about two to three months too late. Get vaccinated. I do think that they at least offer some protection against even the variant that we’re seeing now. In folks who are not vaccinated, certainly there’s an increased risk for severe illness. It seems as though there are a few folks who are vaccinated who do come down with illness, but their illnesses are not as severe. So, you know, I guess my best answer would have been given two or three months ago and that would be to get vaccinated. As far as my recommendations now, you know, I would avoid inside celebrations with large numbers of people. I would say the messaging which came out early on to socially distance and avoid inside gatherings and prolonged exposure to people, certainly still holds true. That’s our best chance avoiding transmission of the virus. I realize folks are gonna celebrate the New Year, but I hope they’ll do it in a healthy and responsible way. That’s probably the best advice I could give is to maybe limit the number of people at your celebration and if possible, stay outside.

Amy Bearden: “Is masking still important?”

Dr. Jones: “Masks still play a very important role in protecting one another. You know, the mask really serve as protection for yourself to some degree, but offer more protection for your fellow man and who you might be exposing. And so I guess my philosophy there is we should look out for for our fellow man and brothers and sisters as well.

Amy Bearden: “Dr. Jones, I noticed in some article I read was basically saying that Coronavirus is pretty much here to stay…that it’s not going to go away. It’s probably going to be much like a flu virus and we’re probably going to have to start having annual vaccines. Do you have any knowledge of that?

Dr. Jones: “You know, my knowledge comes from reading as well. And then I rely on the experts in those kinds of things. I do think the Coronavirus should be considered endemic, even already. Almost like the flu, I think it is with us to stay. I think we’ll go through stages of different, you know, different strains, much like we go through different strains of the flu from year to year. Some will be more potent and more significant than others. But I do think the virus is here to stay. We’re certainly not going to eradicate the virus anytime soon. And so I think we need to plan on continuing probably vaccinations on a yearly basis. It may even be required more often than that. I think that remains to be seen. But yeah, I think the virus is here and it should be considered endemic, if not now, very soon.

Amy Bearden: “Should we talk about boosters?”

Dr. Jones: “Well, you know, currently, I think the thought on vaccination is you’re not fully vaccinated unless you’ve had, you know, when it comes to Moderna, or Pfizer, the first two shots and the booster. The Johnson and Johnson, it was a single shot. And I would suggest also that you’re not fully vaccinated until you’ve had a booster there as well. You know, and that’s honestly subject to change with time as well. As time goes by we will seem to know how long our immunity lasts for vaccination, and it’ll give us a better idea of how often boosters might be needed. For right now certainly, a fully vaccinated person, in my estimation, has had either the first set of vaccinations, Moderna or Pfizer and a booster, or at least the single Johnson and Johnson and a booster of that as well.

Amy Bearden: “Should the community still be worried about this virus? Are we taking it serious enough in the community?”

Dr. Jones: “You know that it’s hard. It’s hard to judge people. And, you know, I think everyone has had a different take on the virus. I think what I would say is from firsthand experience, having taken care of way too many patients. And way too many patients who have died prematurely, in my opinion. This is a very serious virus and we need to take it seriously. Especially folks with co-morbidities. But even young, healthy people I’ve seen pass away as a result of this virus, unnecessarily. It is a very serious virus, and if I could convince everyone of that I would do whatever it took to do so.

Amy Bearden: “Thank you, Dr. Jones for your time.”