SAN ANTONIO – The rapid spread of the highly contagious omicron variant in San Antonio and Bexar County has caused an influx of COVID-19 patients and affected those who take care for them in the hospital.
“The real impact is loss of nursing staff because of COVID,” said Eric Epley, executive director of the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council or STRAC. “They’re catching it in the community, and then they can’t come to work.”
With the state’s positivity rate now more than 20%, Cindy Zolnierek, CEO of the Texas Nurses Association, said, “That means more than one in four people tested positive and included in that are health care workers and nurses.”
Epley said this the fourth time since the pandemic began in 2020 that the Department of State Health Services has deployed contract nurses to the San Antonio area.
He said 411 mostly nurses and some respiratory therapists from out of state will be arriving here this week.
“So not a lot of nurses once you start dividing them over that 28-county region,” Epley said. “We’re very grateful for these, but certainly the need is there.”
Epley said the state was able to only fill about a third of the 1,100 nurses who are needed, and not just in COVID-19 units.
“If you talk to any nurse, they will tell you that staffing is stretched very thin,” Zolnierek said..
Zolnierek said it’s why she urges everyone to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible to help avoid being hospitalized.
“It will help nurses do what they need to do and not be stretched beyond what is humanly possible,” she said.