UT Health East Texas leader on COVID-19 hospitalizations: ‘Things are bad’

Cummins: East Texas clinics seeing more children testing positive for virus
Dr. Tom Cummins is the Chief Medical Officer for UT Health East Texas.
Dr. Tom Cummins is the Chief Medical Officer for UT Health East Texas.(KLTV)
Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 7:05 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2021 at 7:19 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - East Texas hospitals are stretched thin, and help from the state isn’t guaranteed.

At UT Health East Texas, hospital leaders recently submitted their requests for more resources, but they know the state pool is greatly reduced compared to earlier waves.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Cummins says there’s no word on when that help could arrive, and the situation at UT Health East Texas hospitals is not improving.

“It’s not going well right now,” Cummins said. “We’re seeing continued increases in numbers. Very, very sick people requiring very high levels of care in all of our markets, leaving us working very hard to get the necessary equipment and people back in place to take care of people.”

Data for the Tyler-Longview area is gathered from hospitals in the counties shaded in orange...
Data for the Tyler-Longview area is gathered from hospitals in the counties shaded in orange for Area G.(Texas DSHS)

As of Wednesday, Aug. 11, 468 patients were being treated for COVID-19 at hospitals in Trauma Service Area G. According to DSHS, 12 ICU beds were open in the area, but Cummins says UT Health hospitals have none available.

“We have people who would normally be in ICU being held in emergency rooms and being treated like ICU patients,” Cummins said. “We have buildings where we’re actively trying to figure out where we can put another ICU patient, and asking, ‘do we have the people to take care of them?”

Cummins says workers caring for COVID-19 patients are already tired, and some are now getting sick with the virus.

“We’ve got large numbers that are out, and that’s part of our issue right now, is we have a significant number of them out, frankly with COVID themselves. Some vaccinated, some not vaccinated. That’s left us scrambling a little bit to cover those gaps, but generally people are tired and really just terribly frustrated by this.”

When it comes to advice for East Texas, Cummins says a significant change is needed or hospitals will be overrun.

“First and foremost, I need people, when they leave their house and go to see any other people, wear a mask. When kids start school, everyone’s got to mask. Teachers need masks. Kids need masks. We’re seeing younger and younger children testing positive every day in our clinics, some as young as one month old or younger. And frankly, in this part of the state, there isn’t the capability of taking care of sick, really sick, young children,” Cummins said. “And the hospitals in Dallas are full. So a really sick young child is going to struggle to get the care they need in the state of Texas right now, and certainly in East Texas. So if you’re leaving the building, and you’re going to be around any other people, put a mask on and keep kids with some semblance of distance. And along the way you should go and stop off at a pharmacy and get vaccinated, so we can start the process of getting people fully vaccinated, and maybe put an end to this over the next few weeks.”

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