Virginia Cunningham / News-Sun
LOVINGTON — COVID, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are circulating through Lea County, and the flu is affecting people more than COVID said Nor-Lea Hospital CEO David Shaw.
“We are seeing COVID positive tests at the highest levels since last year,” said Shaw. “The good news is it isn’t as severe.”
All three viruses will possibly reach peak by next week (during Dec. 19-23), and then decrease in cases over the next three to four weeks, Shaw postulated.
And, because of what is being labeled as a triple threat, the Lovington hospital issuing near-capacity levels of patients.
“We don’t staff or plan for three viruses to peak at the same time,” said Shaw. He said the hospital is at capacity for inpatient admits.
And children seem to make up the bulk of new patients.
“We are seeing a lot more children with bad RSV being hospitalized than we have in a long time,” said Shaw.
And, it’s not just the hospital itself seeing an influx.
The clinics are busy as well, and patients have been frustrated with not being able to get in to be seen the same day they call, said Shaw.
“We moved from a walk-in clinic to an extended hours clinic,” he said. “People need to call and make an appointment.”
The move to appointments from the walk-in method was done for several reasons.
Shaw said during the COVID-19 pandemic, having a bunch of people sitting in the same room for long periods while waiting to be seen caused more cross spread of illness.
People showed up primarily in the morning and evening, creating large crowds and extended wait times, said Shaw.
“By making appointments, there are more patients seen in a day than when we had walk-in patients,” said Shaw.
And, wait times in the emergency room have grown because patients who can’t get into the clinic in the same day are going to the emergency room, said Shaw.
He said the ER, in terms of staffing, is operating at 130 to 140 percent capacity — meaning there are more patients than nurses to care for them.
“We have 10 employees out for COVID and 15 out for flu. (Health care workers) aren’t immune to the effects of these viruses peaking at once,” said Shaw.
Shaw said a virus has to run its coarse.
If someone experiences any difficulty breathing, change in color of drainage or severe symptoms lasting more than five to seven days seek treatment, he said.