Over the last week, San Antonio has seen record increases in COVID cases every single day. The numbers of patient deaths and ventilator usage are also increasing as well. According to some news outlets, San Antonio is one of the quickest growing metropolises for COVID cases in the country. Monday morning began the new requirement of face masks within businesses in San Antonio in the hopes to slow the spread. But is this too little, too late? This week will be a good indication if more serious measures will be needed to curb the infection rates.
Over the past week, the clinics we represent have had to send significantly more people out for testing, mainly employees. It typically is taking a week to get an appointment and results back, which can mean a full week without an employee at work, and no income for them.
In addition to more people requiring COVID testing, we are seeing more severe cases in San Antonio. The ICU beds at two major hospitals in San Antonio are already at capacity and at least one emergency room is diverting non-COVID patients. Our specialty clinics are being called for STAT and emergency referrals to help cover patients that cannot be seen in ERs and are starting to be overwhelmed by the combination of rescheduled elective surgery and new traumas due to ER diversions.
So what does this increase in cases, beds, and deaths mean? It certainly means that COVID is not gone, we have not finished out the first peak, and that our community is at significant risk. The trend over the next week will dictate what else needs to be done to fight this pandemic. This could include a return to earlier healthcare office visit and elective procedure restrictions. For example, dental clinics in Minnesota, which is showing a much slower infection rate, have already begun to see only urgent cases again.
In regards to the business of healthcare, it is extremely scary to be coming up on another potential shutdown, when many employees are still furloughed or unemployed since March or April. Unemployment benefits are still being offered for employees missing work because of COVID, but those programs are set to end next month. Many small businesses are coming to the end of their PPP loans and once those funds run out, it could be catastrophic. The economic impact of this cannot be ignored, but more importantly, we must consider people’s lives. An expanded community coronavirus infection rate can and will kill people in addition to leaving life long impacts on those who survive it. This is no longer a disease that only attacks elderly, as the rates have exploded among younger groups.
Governor Abbott held a conference on Monday, in which he said that shutting down the state of Texas would be the last option. He also mentioned that the state has strategies to combat an increased spread of COVID over the next few weeks, including more policing of organizations, like bars and restaurants, and the closing of river parks. However, as of today, the focus largely remains on individuals assuming personal responsibility throughout their communities to wear masks and focus on hygiene. Finally, Governor Abbott stated that there remains plenty of hospital capacity still available, but we are seeing otherwise in our community.
Right now, we are advising clients to watch these climbing hospitalization rates and ensure they are taking every possible precaution in their healthcare facilities. This includes hygiene, masks, temperature checks, coronavirus screenings, and limiting visitors. Many health systems in San Antonio are no longer allowing visitors for inpatient visits and even limiting those in outpatient settings. It is critical to ensure staff is not coming to work with symptoms and are required to get screened before returning if they display symptoms. We are happy to help recommend testing sites that are turning around results within 24-48 hours.
Lastly, if your practice is concerned about the future, looking to transition towards Telehealth services, or you have questions about the COVID status of San Antonio, we are still booking free consultations on our website. You can book those here: https://www.nolanhcs.com/bookings-checkout/coronavirus-consultations/book.