CM – The new COVID-19 surge in Texas could be worse than anything the state has seen to date

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« It’s getting tight, » a health official said as a record number of Texas hospitals run out of ICU beds, warning they may soon have more COVID-19 patients than they can handle.

by Karen Brooks Harper and Carla Astudillo

17th August 2021

Updated: 5:41 pm Central

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More Texas hospitals are reporting ICU bed shortages than ever since the COVID 19 pandemic hit the state 18 months ago – just one sign of many that the health crisis is on its way to its most dangerous phase yet, health officials say.

The virus’s recent surge has also led to it that new cases and COVID-19 hospital admissions have soared at record speeds to just below their January highs as the highly contagious Delta variant penetrates the unvaccinated community at a rate up to eight times faster than previous strains, officials said > « We are stepping into the worst spikes in pure numbers, » said Dr. Mark Casanova, a Dallas palliative care professional and a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force. “This is the fourth round of a three-round fight. We have very serious concerns that the numbers game will overwhelm us. ”Between 93% and 98% of hospitalized COVID patients are unvaccinated, depending on the region, officials said. With nearly half of Texans fully vaccinated, there are still around 16 million people in the state who still need protection from the virus.

In Dallas County, only 16 intensive care beds were available on Monday To supply 6 million rural districts and their surroundings. The day before it was 12, Casanova said.

The state has asked the federal government for five hearses in anticipation of a possible spike in deaths, which will rise again from a low in July – although daily deaths are still much lower than previous climbs.

Last week, San Antonio passed 26 minutes with no ambulances available to answer emergency calls from the city’s 1.5 million residents. In Austin, paramedics are so understaffed and overworked that some ambulances have to sit idle because no one can operate them, said Captain Selena Xie, Austin medic and director of the Austin EMS Association.

« We’re seeing call numbers breaking our records , outside of the February snowstorm, « Xie said.

In rural west Texas, a school district announced Monday that it would be closed for the next two weeks to help slow the spread of the virus before it runs out Health resources overwhelmed in the area.

And on Tuesday, overwhelmed Harris County officials offered $ 100 to anyone who received their first dose of vaccine in a desperate attempt to stave off what a hospital chief called « the worst surge ever. » we have seen in the community « said. » The numbers at Harris Methodist and other hospital systems in this area have never increased so rapidly, « said Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, President and CEO of Harris Health System. « I beg of you. Do the right thing. Get vaccinated. »

Of nearly 12,000 people hospitalized in Texas with COVID on Monday, more than a quarter are in the state’s intensive care beds. Late last week, at least 75 Texas hospitals reported that they had no ICU beds available for patients – and more than 50 additional facilities said they only had one bed available at some point in the previous week.

Most Bottlenecks are occurring in large metropolitan areas, near the Gulf Coast, and in the eastern parts of the state, where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the state.

Pressure on intensive care units affects not only COVID patients, but others too, who need treatment for non-COVID related ailments, Casanova said.

« If you are told by authorities that you have 12 ICU beds in Dallas County, it means you will have 12 ICU beds for traffic on I- Have 35, 12 intensive care beds for the stroke [victims], 12 intensive care beds for the five borderline COVID patients we have in the hospital right now, ”said Casanova. “If we say we may find ourselves in a situation where we will have to make some impossible decisions in order to focus our care and efforts on those who are most likely to survive so that we can save as many lives as possible, then this equation is not only intended for COVID patients. That is the case with all patients. ”

And while hospitals haven’t gotten to that point, Casanova says, it remains a real threat.

New COVID-19 cases have a seven-day history Achieved average of more than 14,000, still below January’s high of more than 19,000. Governor Greg Abbott became one of the latest cases on Tuesday. But the number that worries health officials the most is hospitalizations due to COVID-19, which hit 12,227 on Monday – an increase from 2,186 since last week.

If the trend continues, the state could end Jan. 11 exceeded the daily record of 14,218 before the end of the month.

Dr. David Lakey, former Texas state health commissioner, said Tuesday he was not convinced Texas will hit that number nationwide as some areas like Austin are starting to see a slight decline in approvals.

However, he also noted notes that hospital admissions are not rising at the same rate across Texas and that some areas will continue to have problems even if the numbers slow.

For example, stay in El Paso, one of the most heavily vaccinated areas in the state the numbers are manageable, he said – but Dallas and Houston have already met or exceeded their hospital admissions in January.

So far, hospitals have been able to take steps to avoid life and death decisions made with too many patients and under-occupied beds to be hit. They have swapped staff, converted unused rooms into COVID units and postponed non-emergency operations.

Tents have been set up at the LBJ Hospital in Houston to deal with the overflow of COVID patients, according to media reports. </ At Parkland Hospital in Dallas, officials sometimes hold patients in the emergency room waiting for intensive care beds to open, said Joseph Chang, chief medical officer at Parkland Health and Hospital System.

« It will increasingly common as COVID spreads like wildfire across the community, « Chang said in a statement emailed to the Tribune.

The hospital, which typically has high patient numbers even in non-COVID periods Intensive care unit has been rejecting ambulances for weeks, he said.

But since the beds are not available because they cannot be occupied and the number continues to rise, Casanova worries that the hospitals he reached their limit.

« We swung what we can do, » he said. “There is only so much on a power strip, and at some point you will break it. And I think we’re about to blow it – in a euphemistic way and literally. « Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association and Parkland Health and Hospital System are financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is partially funded by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. You can find a full list of them here.

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Updated: August 17, 2021

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