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CBS' 60 Minutes looks at coronavirus impact in rural Texas

CBS' 60 Minutes looks at coronavirus impact in rural Texas

CBS 60 Minutes coronavirus
Coronavirus hasn't yet hit rural towns. Courtesy photo

Coronavirus in the state of Texas will get its own segment this weekend on CBS' 60 Minutes, which will do a report on how the virus may impact financially strapped clinics and hospitals in rural areas.

Big cities across Texas are already grappling with hundreds of cases, but the virus has yet to hit many small towns. As the 60 Minutes episode, which airs on Sunday, May 3, makes clear, small-town clinics and hospitals are vulnerable to outbreak because they lack supplies and infrastructure.

The episode hits Central Texas, East Texas, and the Gulf Coast, visiting towns like Bedias, where many of the 443 residents are elderly, uninsured, or on Medicaid.

Sid Miller, Texas' Agriculture Commissioner, whose duties also cover the state's rural health care system, tells correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi that 60 of the 163 rural facilities he’s struggling to keep open in Texas have less than 30 days of cash on hand.

Claire St. Amant, former managing editor for CultureMap Dallas, served as field producer on the segment.

"It shows the other side of pandemic — not the overwhelmed hospitals and hot spots, but in these communities that are isolated and have such limited resources that if they were to get a few patients it would be more than they could handle," St. Amant says.

Dr. Leighann Falcon, who runs a clinic and works at Memorial Medical Center in Calhoun County, tells 60 Minutes that she's skipping her own salary to pay staff and is dealing with the extra PPE costs that go being forced to treat every patient as a potential COVID-19 case. For example, masks that used to cost 6 cents are now more than $1.

St. Amant says that hospitals already on the brink of financial collapse are also losing revenue from nonessential procedures like colonoscopies they've not been allowed to perform.

"It's a financial storm that's brewing right alongside the pandemic," she says.

The segment will be broadcast on Sunday, May 3 at 6 pm on the CBS Television Network.

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