As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the world, Grayson County emergency and health care responses have been strong and vast. The timeline for the Grayson County response shows that while the area is known as “medically underserved,” the area has also been making the most of its resources during this time.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration website, “Medically Underserved Areas/Populations are areas or populations designated by HRSA as having too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty or a high elderly population. Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) are designated by HRSA as having shortages of primary medical care, dental or mental health providers and may be geographic (a county or service area), population (e.g. low income or Medicaid eligible) or facilities (e.g. federally qualified health center or other state or federal prisons).”
Here are five things to know about the health care response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early and fast
While the United States began recognizing coronavirus cases at the beginning of the year, North Texas was late to the game when it came to recognizing its first cases of the virus. Still, area hospitals and nursing homes acted fast. It was announced the week of March 13 that local facilities were limiting the number of guests allowed to visit patients.
“We don’t want to bring the virus in on top of our patients,” Texoma Medical Center Director of Infection Control and Emergency Management, Donna Glenn, said in March. “We are screening people coming in, we are screening vendors, we’re screening our own employees. We are doing temperature checks at the entrances (and) have limited entrances open to manage the traffic. We want to keep our patients as safe as possible.”
Not long after, those restrictions turned into a full on lock down.
On March 23, Texoma Medical Center and Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center announced they had stopped allowing visitation at their facilities. Around the same time, nursing homes closed their doors to visitors in order to keep COVID-19 from making its way around their facilities.
“While we are sensitive to the difficulties facing loved ones of hospitalized patients, our healthcare providers must keep patient and staff safety paramount at this unprecedented time,” WNJ said in a news release issued in late March. “We encourage family members and friends to use alternative ways to interact with their loved ones, including phone calls, FaceTime and other means.”
Patient 1 announced
Grayson County announced its first COVID-19 patient on March 22. It had only been announced that the region had testing available in March. In quick succession, the county seemed to have a number of cases each day following.
Months later, there have been less than a handful of days when new cases of the virus have not been announced. The Grayson County Office of Emergency Management has put out new COVID-19 case count numbers every day since March 22.
“This disease has impacted every single one of us, and we are living through something we never thought we would. It’s brought us together and made us stronger as a health department team,” Grayson County Health Department Director Amanda Ortez said in April.
Grayson County did not have its first COVID-19 related death until after the nation surpassed 50,000 deaths.
“We are saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with their family at this difficult time,” said Tyson Foods spokesperson Derek Burleson by email. “At Tyson Foods, our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we have put in place a host of protective steps at our facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19.”
And still, as of mid July, the county had less than 10 COVID-19 related deaths. That does not mean, however, that area hospitals were not seeing the effects of increased testing in the area as well as an increased case count for the surrounding areas.
“We’ve been very blessed,” said Texoma Medical Center Chief Executive Officer, Ron Seal. “Our employees here— they’re an awesome team of individuals— physicians, the employees, all of the workers. That is what has helped us get through this. We have been able to have enough staff here.”
Patient 1 released
Eshmaeil Babahhmadi spent 35 days at TMC through March and April, and was the first person to be diagnosed with COVID-19 in the area, alongside his wife.
“Mr. Babahhmadi was the first person to test positive for COVID-19 in Grayson County,” a news release from the hospital said. “During his hospital stay, Mr. Babahhmadi was treated by a team of providers that included intensivists, infectious disease specialists, respiratory therapists and critical care nurses. We are pleased to announce that he has recovered from COVID-19 and his rehabilitation will continue at the TMC Reba McEntire Center for Rehabilitation. Mr. Babahhmadi’s release was a welcome site to hospital staff as they cheered and clapped for him during his release.”
At the time, in late April, the United States had seen more than 1 million cases of the virus and more than 50,000 deaths from COVID-19.
The saga continues
In mid July, TMC and WNJ asked the state for help as a coronavirus surge continued affecting the nation and world. Since COVID-19 patients need to be in negative pressure areas, not all hospital rooms can be used to treat those patients.
Between area hospitals, there are 27 rooms that can be used for COVID-19 patients at TMC. WNJ could not be reached for comment on its number of COVID-19 patients currently at the hospital. And, while on July 15, there were only 13 Grayson County residents in local hospitals, the Grayson County OEM has said that residents from outside of Grayson County have found care and treatment at facilities inside the county.
As of July 14, there were 360 people in hospitals located in Grayson County. Of those, the Grayson County Office of Emergency Management has announced that 22 people have been confirmed to have COVID-19. As state and local officials, as well as health care workers, continue to address issues in North Texas, the region has continued to make strides in the ongoing battle against the pandemic.