Texas’ top doctors discuss lessons learned from 1st COVID-19 wave and how it could help possible 2nd surge


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As hospitalizations slowly increase across the state, the people heading up the COVID-19 response in Texas are discussing what they’ve learned from the first wave of the virus while preparing for a second surge.

That includes checking stockpiles and keeping tabs on frontline workers.

“We learned to expect the unexpected,” Department of State Health Services Dr. John Hellerstedt said Wednesday. “There are many things that we know now that we didn’t know at the beginning of it.”

Most recently, the state has surged resources to Amarillo, Lubbock and El Paso, the regions with the highest hospitalization rates in Texas right now.

Healthcare workers in these regions are feeling fatigued, said Dr. Todd Bell, a Texas Tech Physicians Pediatrician in Amarillo.

“I was complaining about working 31 out of 32 days. And then I was talking to a colleague of mine in the ICU. And he was commenting on the fact that he was halfway through a 41-day stretch,” Dr. Bell explained. “We’ve seen across the country that we’ve had more issues with healthcare worker burnout. We see that in part due to longer hours and longer shifts.”

Part of the state’s resources sent to Amarillo included medical personnel to relieve the strain on these healthcare workers, but Dr. Bell said it’s going to take more to solve the problem.

“The community is tired of this, the healthcare system is tired of this, but COVID is a community-wide issue. And it requires a community-wide solution,” Dr. Bell said.

The state’s top doctors reiterated that point Wednesday in a Zoom meeting led by State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).

“By wearing the mask, distancing, those sanitarian measures, avoiding those congregate settings and stuff, those are the tools that we have right now until better things come along,” Chief Medical Advisor Dr. John Zerwas said.

State leaders said they are more prepared now for a second wave due to higher testing capacity and a stockpile of supplies.

“We have over 2000 locations across the state of Texas right now to get tested for COVID-19,” Chief Nim Kidd with the Texas Division of Emergency Management said.

“We’ve got lots of PPE we’ve got lots of ventilators and, as Dr. Zerwas pointed out, this past summer we saw an amazing ability of our hospitals to to band together to help each other out,” Dr. Hellerstedt added.

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