East Texas hospitals seeing increase in COVID-19 patients, UT Health leader encourages mask-wearing

Hospital capacity in East Texas

TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - East Texas hospitals are seeing an increase in the number of patients requiring treatment for COVID-19, especially when compared to numbers from the past couple of months.

“We’ve had to ramp things back up,” said Tom Cummins, MD, Chief Medical Officer for UT Health East Texas.

As the number of COVID-19 patients needing hospital care begins to increase, Cummins remains confident in their ability to treat everyone who needs treatment.

”The severity of illness of people getting admitted has been a lot higher with this sort of reopening surge that we had,” Cummins said.

And with the numbers rising, UT Health has plans to handle a possible surge. Alternate locations include the former Behavioral Health Center near the campus of UT Tyler. The center was closed earlier this year and moved to UT Health Science Center, to allow patients to be closer to existing care resources. The building could be used if needed.

“There would be some things we’d have to do, but we have plans in place in case we need to do that,” Cummins said.

Treatments for the virus at UT Health East Texas include remdesivir and plasma therapy along a new antibody treatment starting this week. Patients in need of high levels of oxygen are being given a steroid treatment.

”We’re seeing some patients who are getting these treatments and going home and then we’re seeing some who’ve gotten them and it’s not really made a difference,” Cummins said.

And when it comes to what East Texans can do to help those working in our community hospitals, Cummins said it’s simple.

“Wearing a mask is not a political decision,” Cummins said. “Masks aren’t blue and red. Masks are about protecting me from you and you from me.”

Cummins said the number of young people getting the virus gives him reason for concern. He said while they will likely be okay, it’s their parents and grandparents that we have to worry about.

“It is in no way a hoax,” Cummins said. “And the people who think it’s a hoax should come see the folks on the ventilator laying facedown trying to breathe through a machine. This is not a political event. This is not a hoax. This disease is real. It’s killing people every day and it’s not going away.”

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