AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - City leaders pleaded with the public to wear masks as hospitals reach critical capacity in the area due to rising number of COVID-19 cases.
During a news conference this morning, Director of Public Health Casie Stoughton said hospital workers are tired as Amarillo has averaged 200 new cases of coronavirus a day for five days.
“Our hospitals are at critical capacity," said Stoughton. "They are working so hard for us, and it doesn’t show we are working hard for them. "
As of yesterday, Potter and Randall counties reached a total of 13,423 cases.
Mayor Ginger Nelson stressed the importance of wearing masks as cases soar in the area.
“Fight a little longer...think about the hospital workers,” Nelson said. “Use the power of your encouragement, your gratitude and fight frustration. I think that will make a big difference in our community.”
The hospitalization rate has been over 15% for 13 consecutive days.
Stoughton said this means area hospitals are at critical capacity.
A staff member working on the front lines at Northwest Texas Hospital joined the meeting to share what she has witnessed as cases rise in the area.
“We are struggling. Our community needs to be following the standards our mayor has put forward,” she said. “We may not have the holidays this year, but if we can survive through this we will have them next year. Please, for our community, wear your mask. We beg of you here at the hospital, wear your mask.”
Dr. Scott Milton, public health authority at TTUHSC, said 100 patients are currently hospitalized at NWTHS and doctors are worried they won’t have beds available when they have critically ill patients.
“There’s a critical stress here on the ability of beds. ICU beds are becoming critically precious,” said Dr. Milton.
He also said the lack of beds is so critical, other facilities locally have had to donate beds.
Because of the hospitalization rate, Dr. Milton said the hospital is no longer doing elective procedures.
Dr. Milton also said he believes wearing a mask is one the best ways for the community to make a difference when it comes to slowing the spread, as hospital workers are staying safe by wearing masks themselves.
City officials said changes are coming due to the rise in cases, and area businesses are being required to reduce their capacity once more.
“By December, we will be extremely limited,” said City Manger Jared Miller. “Over the next three weeks we will begin reducing face-to-face interaction with each other and with citizens.”
Miller said to safeguard the public, the city will reduce interaction at city facilities such as fire departments, the police department, and city hall.
Parks, sports facilities and the Civic Center will also be impacted.
Over three weeks, the city will phase out some face-to-face interactions and some facilities will be closed to the public. Though the public will not be able to enter various city buildings, Miller said plans on how services will continue without face-to-face interaction will soon be announced.
Miller also said every business that was previously allowed to open at 75% capacity is now limited to 50% capacity.
Only essential infrastructure will be at 100% capacity.
The city is working on bringing in extra staff to clear up a backlog when it comes to contact tracing.
Officials said the drive-thru testing site is still open, and those who would like to be tested must call the public health line at (806) 378-6300 to be screened.
Free transportation through city transit is available for people who have been referred to the testing center.