Hunt Regional Healthcare CEO Richard Carter

Hunt County added more than 220 COVID-19 cases to start the new year and while all of the latest individuals are recovering at home, the local hospital is already overflowing with patients because of the virus.

“We are currently over capacity with both COVID and non-COVID patients,” Hunt Regional Healthcare CEO Richard Carter said in a letter sent to the Herald-Banner. “As of today, we have 70 COVID patients in our hospital and are operating at 120 percent of our medical capacity. We expect these numbers to continue to rise due to a post-holiday surge.”

State health officials have also raised the county’s COVID-19 death toll.

The office of Hunt County Judge Bobby Stovall reported the Hunt County Health Department listed 222 new cases of COVID-19 between Dec. 31 and Wednesday bringing the county’s total to 4,100 cases.

The number of deaths from the virus in Hunt County, reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services, is much higher than the statistics released by county officials.

The state’s reporting can be accessed by clicking on “Fatalities over Time by County” on www.dshs.state.tx.us/coronavirus/additionaldata. As of Friday, the state shows 87 COVID-19 fatalities of Hunt County residents. The divergence is because of the way the state calculates COVID-19 deaths, which in part uses death certificate information not yet available to the county. The number of death certificates filed with the County Clerk’s office (including deaths of non-county residents) was reported at 84 and the number of county-citizen deaths the County Health Department has been able to independently confirm was at 45 as of Friday.

Carter’s letter, included in its entirety on the opinion page in today’s Herald-Banner, also details the issues the hospital in Greenville is having in providing doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Hundreds of people lined up outside of the building between Monday and Thursday of this week, hoping to be among the first to receive the 500 doses the hospital had to offer. But Carter admitted the facility was not able to meet the demand.

“It is important that we are transparent about our current situation,” Carter said. “Our staff is limited and required for patient care. Our abilities become more limited as the pandemic progresses. We do not have the nursing staff or resources to run a daily clinic for the extended period of time it will require to vaccinate the public. Simply put, your local hospital cannot accomplish this task alone.”

Carter said he has reached out to Stovall about developing a COVID vaccine task force.

“ … and he is working diligently to get the task force operational and design a system to administer large quantities of the vaccine to Hunt County residents,” Carter added. ”We are also hopeful that a distribution network is in development by the state for mass community distribution.”

The hospital has 20-25 patients in the ER waiting for a bed, with an outdoor tent being used for ER registration, with the waiting room and office space being used to care for patients.

“We have been dealing with these problems for months and your local healthcare professionals have done a magnificent job,” Carter said. “They did not sign up for this crisis. And yet, they have gone the extra mile. They are tired. They are facing a strain on their mental health. They have put their own health second to care for our community. They deserve praise for their quick, steadied response, not criticism for an impossibly challenging situation.”

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