COVID-19 continues to push rural healthcare systems in Texas, and across the country to the limit. So much so, that doctors from bigger cities are being asked to make the trip to help.
One Fort Worth doctor has seen firsthand the toll this virus is taking on rural America.
Dr. Christine Connolly says at the beginning of the pandemic, people thought rural communities wouldn’t be affected as much, and their distance would help protect them.
“Initially COVID wasn’t a major issue there, right? It was sticking to the cities, it was sticking to the larger areas, but it has moved out that way now,” said Connolly.
Connolly has been making the 10-hour drive to Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, from her home in Fort Worth since February to help staff the town’s medical facility. She says in the last couple of months, COVID-19 cases in the rural community have nearly doubled.
News reports show how the surge hit even harder when the only doctor who lives in the town permanently fell ill and is still showing symptoms from the virus.
Connolly says she and other doctors scrambled to help in Cheyenne Wells.
“The reality of a rural area, this town has 850 people, that’s its population. The population of the entire county is about 1,500 on a good day, and it’s far enough from the main cities, Denver and Colorado Springs that you can’t get extra people out there at all easily,” said Connolly. “So if you don’t have a doctor that lives in town all the time, then you’re stuck kind of having to bring them in. That’s not just Cheyenne Wells, that’s all the rural areas out there.”
Connolly says once you get to a certain point, if you can’t bring doctors in to rural areas, you have to close the hospital. She’s fighting to help protect the people of Cheyenne Wells from that fate.
She leaves Fort Worth once again Thursday and plans to spend 10 days in Colorado as cases continue to surge.