Does Houston have enough hospital capacity?

We sure hope so.

Houston-area hospitals would not have enough resources to respond to a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus unless they take strong action to significantly increase capacity, according to new calculations released by Harvard University.

Even in the most conservative of three outbreak scenarios that it created, the Harvard Global Health Initiative found that Houston-area hospitals would lack the necessary beds to care for all patients in need of hospitalization. In a worst case scenario, it would need four times the number currently available in the region.

In the middle scenario — if 40 percent of adults contract the virus over a 12-month period and a fifth of them require hospitalization — more than 430,000 people would be hospitalized in that time. That would require 14,300 beds on an average day, nearly three times the estimated number currently available in Houston.

“We simply do not have enough hospital capacity to assume all of those people,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said last week, assuming 30 percent of county residents were to become sick at the same time. “We can’t afford to have a sudden spike in cases.”

The Harvard initiative data, taken from what’s known as a modeling exercise, don’t constitute predictions so much as they provide scenarios that hospital and policymakers can take into account in planning for a possible surge of the epidemic of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. The data was produced at local hospital market-specific levels because “how many beds are available in Boston is irrelevant to a person in Utah,” said Ashish K. Jha, director of the institute.

The study, released Tuesday, modeled nine scenarios. The scenarios use infection rates of 20 percent, 40 percent and 60 percent and outbreak spans of six, 12 and 18 months.

A 20 percent infection rate over 18 months would mean fewer people caught COVID-19 than fell ill to the flu last year, according to an analysis by ProPublica. Previous studies have suggested the virus is more transmissible than the flu.

The study assumes that hospitals will not free up occupied beds by delaying elective procedures or sending people home early. It also assumes hospitals will not add beds.


The Harvard calculations were criticized by some policy experts and doctors, who said not enough is known about the spread of COVID-19 to make meaningful assumptions.

“It’s incredibly hard to (make) projections about what’s going to happen because this is a unique first-time event and we have so little data,” said Vivian Ho, a Rice University health economist. “Because we don’t have that much testing, we do not know how quickly it’s spreading, what percent of cases are serious, if we can target hot-spot areas and essentially shut them down.”

Ho added, “I hope there’s something wrong with their assumptions because if not, we’re doomed.”

I’m not an expert, but I do know that Houston hospitals are in fact now suspending elective procedures, so that should help. I have hope that all this social distancing we are doing will help, too. Beyond that…man, I don’t know. I can’t wrap my mind around the possible bad outcomes we may face. I have hope because the other options are just too grim.

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26 Responses to Does Houston have enough hospital capacity?

  1. David fagan says:

    Everyone who think Fire fighters are a bunch of sit around and do nothings, now is your turn to go apply to be a Houston Fire fighter, good luck to you and thank you for your decision to serve in The Houston Fire Department.

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    The longer we go without over loading our emergency rooms the more likely it will not happen. Maybe hot temperatures matter. Keep your fingers crossed.

  3. David Fagan says:

    Emergency operation center website

  4. Manny says:

    Paul it is summer or was summer in the southern hemisphere, the virus has been spreading there also. Australia, New Zealand, South America, Africa. So I don’t think fingers crossed will help.

    If we had a competent leader at the White House, most of the economic pain could have been avoided. South Korea was able to do that, because they were prepared.

    You know how I feel about Trump, but the idiot could have at least listened to the experts. We still don’t have masks for the people that need them.

  5. David Fagan says:

    Does anyone want to discuss EMS privatization? Anyone?

  6. Bill Daniels says:


    Is HFD seeing an increase in ambulance calls related to the Wu flu? If so, is it a significant increase in the usual and customary amount of calls for service?

  7. Jason Hochman says:

    @Bill–this crisis shows that the capitalist idea of running everything at capacity is dangerous. The fire department may spend a good deal of time not fighting fires, but it is important to have them at the ready, and have the capacity to respond to an emergency.

    The strategy of testing the obviously sick is not the best. A Columbia University paper showed that most of the cases in China were spread from asymptomatic cases, or those who were so mild they didn’t realize they had the illness. Further evidence is the Italian town that tested all 3,000 inhabitants, and found that one third of positives were asymptomatic. And, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who got tested, and has no fever, no cough.

    People obviously sick should isolate until they are better, or be hospitalized if they are critically ill. Test everyone else. What you think might be seasonal allergy, or stressed out and tired, could be the virus. Of course all of us are sane, responsible, and compassionate. If we tested positive, but had no, or very mild symptoms, that’s no problem, but just be sure to avoid contact until you test negative. We would all do that.

    These big lockdowns and shutdowns are helpful, but the experience of Italy shows us that it is not enough, not the most effective.

  8. David Fagan says:

    Bill, I am replying for letting people know only, I think the more people know the better. Honestly, the way things are going, I don’t know how to reply. I can tell you how I feel, if you were in a war zone and mortars were being fired on your position, when the explosions start off far away and get closer with time, at some point in time you feel you are standing on a target and realize you can be directly affected.

    I encourage everyone to be informed and take this seriously, this is a link to daily updates, which I believe to be public knowledge

    My opinion is our efforts now are to be taken seriously so the hospitals will be able to manage the most serious cases. The efforts people taking are not going to stop the virus and make it disappear, they are too allow our infrastructure to manage the worst cases that are there. It is no secret that a vaccine does not exist and a cure is unavailable, but education and the use of the knowledge we have are going to get you through this with, hopefully, the most minimal damage done by taking precautions.

    Those that don’t take this seriously, you need to. Please, for everyone’s sake, do not get caught up in political rhetoric as to why we are here, because it does not matter. The only thing that matters is keeping yourselves, and the ones you are responsible for, healthy and safe. Also, in these times it’s easy to overlook our own humanity and be driven by selfishness. Love thy neighbor, no one is able to save everyone, but if a person could only help one person in a small way, that can be appreciated.

  9. Brad says:

    Does anyone have any data on how far behind America is on testing for the “Trump screwed up USA’s response to COVID-19” virus?

  10. Jason Hochman says:

    @David–well said, we should do what we can to slow the spread of the illness to allow hospitals to effectively treat the most serious cases, and to do our best to prevent infecting anyone with a pre-existing condition.

    And, how many other opportunities are you going to get to help out by staying at home, doing nothing, and just being indolent.

  11. Wolfgang says:

    Re: “how many other opportunities are you going to get to help out by staying at home, doing nothing, and just being indolent.”

    That’s a good take on it. It should be a selling point for exhortations to the public to engage in “best practices” to contain spread (i.e., political communication).


    Behavior modification at the mass-level (and therefore at the individual level x number of people in the relevant jurisdiction) is the ONLY effective means to reduce the speed of spread (and thereby curtail peak demand for medial services), given the dire resource constraints in testing and treatment capacity for acute cases.


    Unfortunately, if you have political LEADERS WHO ARE DETESTED — whether by the right or the left — such leaders cannot be effective in promulgating
    DO-THIS/DON’T THAT admonishments.

    People will reflectively resist. Perhaps even do the opposite: Think Corona Parities! Somehow apparently that’s cool.

    I mean, if you are a dedicated Democrat, do you want Greg Abbott to tell you to wash your hands? Not to mention Donald Trump?

    The person you need to administer the (verbal) public health medicine is either a beloved national figurehead who stands above politics (think Queen Elizabeth) or a non-political and non-controversial expert who is widely respected in the medical/public health community and beyond. The best we currently have is Dr. Fauci, who at least provides some corrective to the daily dosage of self-congratulatory fluff dispensed by Trump.

    The other alternative would be to put a guy in uniform in charge of crisis management, with centralized command and control.

    A chief who subjects reporters to the spectacle of a public verbal flogging for not “fairly” reporting for what a “great” job he and his team are doing is just about the worst crisis manager you can imagine. Especially when he is divorced from the reality on the ground.


    That said, objectively speaking, Republican Governor Abbott’s public-service spot in which he appears next to the MD we have never heard before (Hellerstedt) (on Channel 1070 where I am) is good. At least it won’t do any harm, and the message might at least reach the compulsive channel surfers, including Republicans, who will be more likely to give him their ear.


    Houston Mayor Turner, by contrast, is putting himself up against a wall and painting himself in a corner with his threat to criminally prosecute people who spread “rumors” that Houston will (have to) go the way of New York and California (and Dallas) in imposing further restrictions on movement.

    That’s a dumb move because it constrains his options, and will result in loss of credibility once the inevitable will come to pass, perhaps by the county (as in Dallas), rather than the city.

    In the meantime, Turner will resist accepting the evolving reality because he has already vilified and condemned those who disagree with him: those who have concluded that a stricter quarantine (by whatever label) is inevitable. For Turner, that’s as apparently a thought crime.

    Mayor Turner will be cognitively constrained in his risk perception (and therefore in his judgment as to the proper course of action) because he has already committed himself to a particular position, and will not want to yield as a matter of pride and ego. He will instead engage in reality denial like Trump.

    Luckily, County Judge Hidalgo has left her options open, and won’t be subject to the same mental-straightjacket dynamics.


    Turner should tune in to New York Governor Cuomo to get some quick ideas about effective crisis management. The videos of Cuomo’s daily “fireside chats” are available online.

    I predict Cuomo will become a textbook example of effective crisis management, and that he might eventually be credited with having saved many lives, although the number will be hard to gauge empirically.

    Watching the videos, you will see that Cuomo is (1) a skilled speaker and awesome communicator (comparable to Ronald Reagan, but much better looking), (2) imparts substance (up-to-date data and expert knowledge) without playing down the bad news (supported by power point visuals), and (3) has the ability to establish rapport with the people of his state by also personalizing the narrative, such as by bringing his daughter and Nonna Matilda in, and by acknowledging what it all means in terms of psychological stress for everyone, himself not excluded (“even the dog annoys me when I am home alone”).

    There is much in there, too, for Hidalgo, who could and should become more assertive and move center-stage. She can and should do more. Unlike the readers of this blog, the masses don’t know her yet (or barely) and she can use that to her advantage.

    And the message could indeed include something like this:

    You can be a hero too! Stay Home – Save lives!

  12. Bill Daniels says:

    “a non-political and non-controversial expert who is widely respected in the medical/public health community and beyond. The best we currently have is Dr. Fauci, who at least provides some corrective to the daily dosage of self-congratulatory fluff dispensed by Trump.”

    Fauci is a partisan, Hillary loving hack who is most assuredly doing his bit to sabotage from within, just as so many other holdovers have already done and are doing. He is the epitome of ‘deep state.’ It’s a shame that even scientists like him aren’t non partisan, so we have to question his motives and judgement, too.

    I expect Fauchi to spin and shade the truth as much as he dares to hurt Trump

    “A chief who subjects reporters to the spectacle of a public verbal flogging for not “fairly” reporting for what a “great” job he and his team are doing is just about the worst crisis manager you can imagine. Especially when he is divorced from the reality on the ground.”

    Divorced from reality? For over 3 years, those reporters lied their asses off and tried to convince YOU that Trump was a Russian agent, followed by trying to convince YOU he’s also, simultaneously some kind of Ukrainian collusion machine, with no hint of irony at the mental disconnect that brings, that Trump is simultaneously cozy with Russia while colluding with the country Russia is unofficially at war with.

    The people who pushed these lies aren’t honest reporters, they are the lugenpresse. All Trump can do is actively call them out for their bullshit.

    If you, still, today, believe that Trump is some kind of secret Russian agent, as promulgated by the press, then just stop now. No matter how much I appreciate your writing style, you’ve got ZERO credibility. You will have proven to be just another easy mark.

  13. Manny,

    Virus has been spreading below the equator but not nearly as fast. My youngest daughter was in Chile during spring break. It was Hot and no one was talking about it like they were doing here. That doesn’t mean they don’t have it its just that it isn’t as bad as it is in the norther hemisphere where we have Winter.

    From what I read the verdict is out on if it will help or not. Since we inherited the virus we have all become internet experts on this so if I was a betting man which I am I would say that the Summer months will swell the virus and make it harder to transport.

    I still hope I am right as I am sure you do also.

  14. brad says:

    Alaska Bill,

    Thanks for pointing out the heroic approach that Trump is taking by standing next to Dr. Fauci while Dr. Fauci disputes and corrects Trump’s daily misinformation/lies/misstatements/incoherent babbles on national TV. This is so normal of Trump to keep persons close to him who dispute and correct him on a daily basis. Especially when they are partisan Hillary loving hacks.

    Almost reminds me of that that other great Republican president Lincoln and his Team of Rivals.

    Based on your last post it is apparent that the cheese is slipping off the cracker for you. I was surprised you didn’t mention Biden/Burimsa and that Obama was Kenyan in the same post.

  15. C.L. says:

    Solyndra, Bill, Solyndra ! You forgot about Solyndra and the drug-running airstrips in Mena., AR, and Whitewater ! You’re one crazy f’er, I’ll give you that.

    Re: “It’s a shame that even scientists like him aren’t non partisan, so we have to question his motives and judgement, too.”

    I have little to no reason to question the motives and judgement of Dr. Fauci at this point. He appears to be the only one who knows what he’s talking about at this WH briefings.

  16. Manny says:

    Rich people who can afford international travel have been spreading the virus. But, it will hit poor people the hardest.

    As to Chile,

    Paul prayer may work better than crossing fingers, I hope you are right, but there is nothing to suggest to it effected by warmer temperatures.

  17. Joel says:

    “If you, still, today, believe that Trump is some kind of secret Russian agent, as promulgated by the press, then just stop now. No matter how much I appreciate your writing style, you’ve got ZERO credibility. You will have proven to be just another easy mark.”

    and the projection continues apace.

  18. Bill Daniels says:

    Meanwhile, Pelosi is holding up the aid bill because she’s trying to insert ballot harvesti…, uh, ballot STUFFING in the bill to make it legal nationwide. I’m sure that will help businesses stay open and keep people employed and afloat, amirite, y’all?

  19. Manny says:

    Bill when is your lying and hate cease? Why not go pass your hate at Big Jolly where you get thumbs from the other like minded racists and bigots.

    Is your mother going to take Dan Patrick’s advice?

  20. Bill Daniels says:


    Do you EVER get tired of being wrong? Instead of denying what your folks did, you should be doubling down on it, explaining why ballot harvesting is necessary to solve the Wu flu problem.

    “Perhaps the most troubling sections of the bill are under the rubric ‘‘American Coronavirus/COVID–19 Election Safety and Security” or ‘‘ACCESS” Act. This section would impose requirements on states for early voting, voting by mail, required mailing of absentee ballots to everyone, ballot harvesting (i.e., having third parties deliver absentee ballots), online voter registration, same-day registration and other practices which undermine confidence in the integrity of the ballot. In these days of increasing threats to election security we should be moving rapidly back to in-person paper ballots, but this bill would be a radical step in the wrong direction.”

    Are you gonna save my Mom by getting ballot harvesting passed? Really? You gonna keep people from going broke, losing their houses, businesses, and livelihoods by approving ballot harvesting? Shit, most 3rd World banana republics don’t allow ballot harvesting, but here we are.

  21. Manny says:

    Who are my folks Bill?

    I agree with them stopping the give away to the Casinos, the Big League Owners, the Hotel Owners, the Cruise Ship Owners. Those are people that have plenty of money and should have at least enough to keep a business open for three months. It is recommended that a small business have enough to last a year, why can’t they do the same?

    Three months what is normally recommended that people plan for in case of accidents, or loss of job. They expect that of the working people why shouldn’t the filthy rich be able to do the same. They can always declare bankruptcy and rip off the creditors and the workers like you.

    The bulk of the money should be for those that have lost their jobs, they don’t have the luxury of going to bankruptcy court and getting relief like the those large companies, the Republicans made sure of that.

    You are not a small contractor, you are in all probability a paid troll hired by large companies to spread lies.

    I agree with Campos as to those checks.

  22. Bill Daniels says:


    I’ve got a challenge for you, if you’re up for it. You’ve accused me of alternately being Russian, then a paid shill. Put up or shut up time. $ 100 to my favorite charity when I have been proven to tell the truth. I’ll PM Kuff my phone number, you do the same, and Kuff will exchange the numbers. You can come out to Brazoria County and I’ll show you around the shop, you can put your hopefully non infected hands on some of the equipment we actually use and see our shop. Once that’s done, you agree to cut a check to my favorite charity, and you’ll send the check to Kuff so he can remit it, to make sure it gets where it needs to get to.

    To sweeten the deal, I’ll buy you a beer or two, to be consumed on site, of course, because I wouldn’t want you to get stopped with an open container.

    If I back out, I’ll send Kuff a check payable to your favorite charity, same $ 100.

    Now that that is out of the way, I want you to explain to me how ballot harvesting helps deal with the Wu flu OR getting the economy going again. Explain the importance of holding up an aid bill to get ballot harvesting. How will that help keep people from being infected? How will that help the sick, and how will that help the jobless who can’t go to work? Exactly, how does that work?

    I’ll wait.

  23. C.L. says:

    Bill/Manny, you two exhaust me.

    If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you two are the same person, just posting under different name, the way you bait-n-chase each other.

  24. Manny says:

    Bill just provide me or us, with the name of your company and your real name. You know who I am, I don’t hide.

    Instead you go off on betting, I don’t bet and would be less incline do so with someone who hides who they are.

    I don’t know who you are either C.L. I know who Paul Kubosh is.

    Pelosi is outwitting Trump and the rest of the morons, either get something right in the senate or come and deal with us.

    Guess what her method worked, they are working out things out without Russian Mitch.

    Bill, come out with your real name and your so called company and then no one will question you. Nothing hard about that.

  25. Manny says:

    FYI once again Pelosi outsmarted Trump and the others from the SOP (Sacrifice Old People) Party. The Democrats got oversight of how that slush fund for the billionaire casino owners, hotel owners, Professional Sports Owners …. was going to be given out.

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