Community leaders and medical professionals are urging people in Bell County to get the COVID-19 vaccine and wear a mask when indoors.
“There are sick people, there are your family members, they are your relatives, your friends who show up to area community hospitals that we have to say no to because we just don’t have the beds to place them in,” Dr. Stephen Sibbitt, Cheif Medical Officer of the Central Texas Region of Baylor Scott & White Health said during a press conference Thursday.
Baylor Scott and White Temple is the only Level 1 Academic Trauma Center in the region, and it is now unable to take in patients from other communities because of the rise in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Sibbitt appealed to parents to get vaccinated for their children, especially those who can’t get a COVID-19 vaccine themselves. He says that almost 100% of the COVID-19 hospitalized patients are unvaccinated.
“Imagine your child can’t breathe, showing up to our Children’s Hospital. That’s exactly what’s happening these days, and it is preventable,” said Dr. Sibbitt.
Dr. Dominic Lucia, Chief Medical Officer of the Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center says at the height of the pandemic last year, children made up 0%-3% of the hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. That has now ballooned up to 10%-15% of the beds.
“This is a different disease almost as it pertains to the pediatric population.”
He is worried about school starting next week, especially for those children who can’t get the COVID-19 vaccine. He says that normally at the start of the school year, the hospital has a low occupancy rate and that begins to rise.
“This year we’re starting out very high already, so we’re unsure what will happen when school starts,” Dr. Lucia said, “We’re here pleading with you, as your neighbors and your friends, to pay attention to this. If you’re able to get vaccinated, please do.”
Dr. Erin Bird, the Chief Medical Officer for AdventHealth Central Texas and AdventHealth Rollins Brook pointed out that in May, just three months ago, there were no COVID-19 patients in his medical centers. That changed in July, when the Delta variant arrived in Killeen.
“Since that time, our emergency department has seen an increase in visits, our inpatient census of COVID numbers has increased, and has surpassed our previous numbers,” Dr. Bird said, “we’re seeing an increase in younger patients. We’re having to put more patients on ventilators.”
Chief Nursing Officer of Seton Medical Center in Harker Heights Calee Travis made an appeal to her fellow professional registered nurses, “I feel that it is our responsibility of nursing to set an example. And that example is to get the vaccine and trust the science.”
After the doctors discussed the severity of the disease and its impact on patients and medical staff, Bell County Judge David Blackburn was asked if he would go against Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates.
“I took an oath of office to uphold the law, and the governor’s orders are the law of the state of Texas with regards to how we manage and address the COVID situation,” Judge Blackburn said, adding that there are no plans to defy Gov. Abbott’s executive orders.
Judge Blackburn ended the press conference by urging everyone to get vaccinated, saying it is safe and will keep you out of the hospital.