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COVID-19 update: vaccines, hospital strain, and more

Vaccinations

We have filled all the available appointments for the initial Phase 1B drive at Wonderland of the Americas. Registration is closed and we do not have a wait list. We recommend people subscribe to our eNewsletter at www.HealthFocusSA.net or download our app, University Health Go, Once we have vaccine and are able to schedule vaccine appointments, we will send out emails to subscribers and push notifications through the smartphone app. Interest continues to be strong, and we have included an updated FAQ for the public.

Since we received the vaccine, we have implemented multiple avenues of addressing vaccinations for as many of the Phase 1A and 1B populations as possible. For example, we have worked closely with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, numerous smaller cities, VIA, and other health care entities to vaccinate front line health care workers, EMS responders, police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, jail guards and school nurses. We will continue to use multiple ways to address those persons who are most at risk for the virus.

The spread of COVID-19 in Texas has been devastating to businesses and stressed all hospital systems. In response, the State quickly authorized the vaccination of persons 65 and over or 16 and older with chronic medical conditions statewide. In support of this effort, we immediately determined that the Moderna vaccine we had just received was best in the arms of people.

The Moderna vaccine is less demanding in terms of process than the Pfizer vaccine, so it’s a very good vaccine to administer to the public, provided we could register persons quickly and efficiently and find a location with easy access to bus routes and plenty of parking.

The Wonderland training center has worked exceptionally well. In four days we have so far vaccinated roughly 6,000 of the 17,280 people who have registered.

Hospitalizations

University Hospital and the other hospital systems in our city are under great stress right now. Hospitalizations have surpassed the peak numbers we faced during the summer, health care workers are being stretched thin, and we are having to postpone some procedures. After shrinking our COVID beds back to one floor in the hospital, we now have expanded beds to accommodate COVID-19 patients on four floors, with plans to expand more.

Procedures

In response to the significant spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations in San Antonio and the urgent need to create bed capacity in anticipation of a continued surge in COVID-19 patients, and in accordance with the Governor’s executive order, elective procedures at University Hospital will be postponed until at least the end of January. Outpatient procedures will continue to be scheduled at two outpatient surgery centers at our Robert B. Green Campus downtown and the MARC in the Medical Center. Emergency procedures will continue to be performed at University Hospital.

These actions will enable us to preserve bed capacity and redeploy resources for our COVID-19 response. We are monitoring this daily and will resume non-urgent inpatient cases as soon as the data shows it’s appropriate to do so.

Trauma

When the pandemic first gripped the city and many businesses shut down, the number of motor vehicle crashes dropped. But now, in the midst of the winter surge straining hospitals, driving has increased again, gunshot injuries are up and our trauma systems are bearing a heavy load.

University Hospital continues to receive all adult and pediatric trauma patients transported by EMS directly from the locations where people are injured. Through our military-civilian partnership, we made a request for Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) to temporarily receive all adult trauma transfers from other hospitals in the region. We will continue to receive all pediatric trauma and pediatric burn transfers. We made the same request during the summer COVID-19 surge. The Level I Trauma Centers at University Hospital and BAMC normally split these transfers evenly. We are grateful for the leadership at BAMC who readily assumed this extra number of civilian patients. This allows for load-balancing to optimize the regional COVID surge response while also maintaining high quality trauma care and access, which is the norm in South Texas. We are also grateful that BAMC is also voluntarily serving as a regional resource for critically ill COVID-19 patients requiring ECMO. The great civilian-military trauma partnership between University Health, UT Health San Antonio and BAMC has improved both COVID-19 care and trauma care.

Monoclonal antibody treatments keeping COVID patients out of the hospital

The pharmacy department at University Hospital has become the central location in San Antonio for preparing some recently approved drugs that may prevent COVID-19 patients from needing hospitalization.

In November, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to two monoclonal antibody therapies developed by Eli Lilly and Regeneron. The FDA describes monoclonal antibodies as “laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses.”

Allotments of these drugs provided to San Antonio healthcare providers are consolidated at University Hospital. Here they are prepared for patients at the Freeman Coliseum Regional Infusion Center operated by the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC).
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