Harris Health System’s intensive care units are nearly full as the delta variant sends more COVID-19 patients into hospitals, prompting the safety-net health system for the county’s indigent communities to construct tents for triaging patients.
As of Monday afternoon, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital’s ICU was 100 percent full, and 63 percent of patients were being treated for COVID-19 complications. Ben Taub Hospital’s ICU was 95 percent full, with 27 percent of patients sickened by the virus.
“The trend line is vertical,” said Bryan McLeod, a spokesperson for Harris Health.
The tents apparent outside the hospital in northeast Houston could be used for COVID-19 overflow patients, but officials may also choose to use it for patients who come in with other illnesses. Last summer, they were used to diagnose coronavirus cases, McLeod said.
This year, they may just be used to treat non-COVID patients, or those with less severe infections. Staff are still installing operational and diagnostic equipment in the overflow area, which will take patients from the emergency room.
While LBJ is the only hospital currently using such tents, Memorial Hermann is creating additional space for overflow patients by converting beds in their pre- and post-anesthesia units into ICU beds.
Statewide, hospitalizations have been increasing rapidly; on Saturday 9,462 people were hospitalized, an increase of 30 percent over the previous Saturday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. This weekend’s hospitalization figures were the highest Texas has seen since Feb. 6.
Dozens of Texas hospitals have run out of intensive care unit beds as COVID-19 surges faster than any other time during the pandemic, propelled by the new delta variant.
The state is divided into 22 trauma service areas, and half of them reported 10 or fewer available ICU beds on Sunday. As more than 9,400 COVID-19 patients fill the state’s ICUs, which are reserved for the patients who are the sickest or most injured, the trauma service area that includes Laredo reported no available ICU beds, while the area that includes Abilene reported having one.
At least 53 Texas hospitals have no available ICU capacity, according to numbers reported to the federal government during the week ending Aug. 5. In Austin, five hospitals were at or above 90% of their ICU capacity during the same period, with two reporting no available ICU beds.
“This surge is by far the fastest and most aggressive that we’ve seen. Almost all of our hospitalizations are due to unvaccinated patients developing severe illness,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County’s health authority, told reporters last week. “ICU staff are seeing a younger population in our hospitals. Patients in the ICU are sicker and stay in the hospital longer than with prior surges, putting more strain on hospital resources.”
Around 87.1% of all hospital beds in Texas are in use — the highest level since the start of the pandemic — with 14.1% of those beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. When Gov. Greg Abbott began to relax some COVID-19 restrictions on businesses in October, his order maintained reduced restaurant capacity and kept bars closed in regions in which 15% or more of hospital beds were filled with COVID-19 patients.
This week, COVID-19 hospitalizations reached higher levels across the state than when Abbott imposed a statewide mask mandate in July 2020. Abbott has maintained that he will not be reviving the mask mandate and has barred local authorities from issuing their own.
More than 10,000 Texans are hospitalized for COVID-19, according to data released by the Texas Department of State Health Services Tuesday afternoon.
According to Tuesday’s report, 10,041 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state of Texas on Monday, the highest rate since Feb. 4, as the delta variant continues to dominate new COVID-19 infections.
Monday’s figure represents a 37 percent increase over the number of hospitalizations one week prior.
But don’t worry, Abbott has asked for more nurses to move to Texas, so we’re going to be fine. Really, what more do you need him to do?