Hendrick: 'Uncontrolled community spread' of COVID

Steve Nash / Brownwood Bulletin
Brown County had 429 active COVID cases as of Thursday and 16 COVID patients at Hendrick Medical Center — Brownwood.
Dr. Stephen Lowry (left), chief of staff at Hendrick Medical Center, and Dr. Rob Wiley, chief medical officer, discuss the COVID cases impacting the Abilene and Brownwood communities.

Noting “uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19,” the Hendrick Medical Center chief of staff and chief medical officer pleaded with the public to step up and help stop the spread.

The Brownwood/Brown County Health Department reported Friday there are 389 active cases in Brown County, and there have been a total of 48 COVID deaths in the county. The most recent death reported was a female in her 70s.

On Friday, the Brownwood/Brown County Health Department received 32 positive COVID-19 test results, 38 negative and 72 recoveries. There were 17 hospitalized in Brown County as of Friday.  

Dr. Stephen Lowry, Hendrick chief of staff, and Dr. Rob Wiley, chief medical officer, spoke on a video about Hendrick’s community COVID safety dial, which is at the “emergency” level — the highest of safety dial’s six levels.

“I encourage you to be vigilant and step this up to make sure that we do trend this curve down, so that we can continue to provide the services necessary for folks without COVID, but also deal with the individuals that come in that require such high levels of care,” Lowry said on the video.

Wiley said, “Our request is simple. We’re asking you to stay at home. It means canceling all non-essential events. It means re-thinking how we we our holidays, how we do our gatherings, how we do Christmas, how we do New Year’s Even and New Year’s.

“It’s remembering that when we leave the house we always wear a mask, whether it’s into the community or into the businesses. It will take our community being socially accountable to each other. It will take us being responsible to be able to protect our community and to protect lives.” 

Referring to the community COVID safety dial, Wiley said,  “Hendrick has devolved a community COVID safety dial. And the purpose  of this dial is actually to keep the public up to date with our hospitalizations and ways that we can reduce community spread and to reduce our hospitalizations.

“There are six levels. We have been at level 5 for the last few weeks. And in the last week we’ve moved to level 6 which is our highest level. It’s the level that’s called the emergency level. Level 6 indicates that we have uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19 and that we have have been at seven days consecutive over our 15 percent required by (Trauma Service Area D).”

Area D consists of 16 counties including Brown and Taylor. According to Texas Department of Health and Human Services website about Area D as of Thursday:

• Total population is 306,972

• Total staffed hospital beds — 936

• Available hospital beds — 456

• Available ICU beds — 0

• Available ventilators — 71

• COVID patients hospitalized — 175 

• Total hospitalizations — 543

• Total staffed inpatient beds — 788

Wiley said the community has a total of 2,700 active cases. “That number is better than what it has been,” Wiley said. “We’ve been as high as 3,000. And for the last week we’ve been consistently trending down — very slowly but trending down, which is a good indicator. However our hospitalizations and our ICU capacity continues to increase..”

Lowry said, “the biggest restriction that we have on our capacity remains the ICU, both our campus on the north end of Abilene, the south campus and the Brownwood campus have seen unprecedented levels of patients requiring critical care. This is something that the hospital has planned for and hoped not to see, but we are seeing it now and we’re implementing the plans that have been laid out since the spring.

“We’ve implemented measures to compensate for this increased burden by bringing on folks that the state has provided through the star program (State of Texas Assistant Request for Personal Protective Equipment) as well as drawing on other areas within the hospital system to provide for the needs of the patients that we’re seeing.”

Lowery said Hendrick continues to perform elective surgeries at the Abilene and Brownwood hospitals.

“But that requires a team of individuals, a group at each campus, to review the daily census, the capacity, the staffing, we well as the schedule for the day ahead,” Lowry said. “These things are not dictated by a percentage, by being at 15 percent. It’s dictated by the burden on the hospital and on what we’re capable of providing for.”

Wiley said Hendrick has sought assistance from the state to provide ICU nurses, respiratory therapists, ventilators and tents.

“Presently our regional hospitals are at capacity with limited resources,” Wiley said. “Because of these limitations with the resources and capacity, that means that deaths are going to go up in these communities. The ability for them to transfer into higher levels of care are very limited at this time.”