You don’t want to go to the ICU right now

And even if for some reason you did want to go to the intensive care unit, there probably wouldn’t be room for you.

The number of Texas intensive care unit beds available for adult patients is at an all-time low for the pandemic, with only 259 staffed beds open across the state as of Wednesday, as hospitals fight a historic staffing crisis and more unvaccinated people infected by the omicron variant pour into hospitals.

That’s 11 fewer beds than the previous record set in September during the deadly surge of the delta variant of COVID-19, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. An average of 295 available beds has been reported in the last week, which is also lower than previous record averages.

The crunch on the state’s intensive care units comes as patient cases skyrocket and as hospitals themselves work to fill shifts left open by more workers home sick from COVID-19.

As of Wednesday, more than 13,300 hospitalized Texans have tested positive for the virus.

“Because of the high level of transmission and infectivity of the omicron variant, so many of our staff are getting positive,” said Bryan Alsip, chief medical officer for University Health in San Antonio. “We’ve been doing this a long time now — close to two years. We’re now experiencing our fourth large surge of those patients. It can get tiring.”

Alsip said University Health — the public hospital system for the San Antonio and the third largest of its kind in the state — is approaching numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients that the system has not seen since the last deadly surges in the early months of 2021 or the fall and summer of 2020.


But while omicron is putting fewer patients into the ICU than in previous surges, there are also fewer ICU beds that are able to be staffed due to a nursing shortage, officials say — and the sheer number of omicron cases is pushing patient counts higher.

The bottom line, they say, is that there are fewer beds for any Texas patient who may be suffering a serious medical event and need intensive care — whether they were put there by omicron or not.

So yeah, now when people tell you to drive safely, it’s more than just a bit of politeness. We might be reaching peak omicron, but as noted before hospitalization is a lagging indicator. There’s still a few weeks to go before we start seeing declines in those numbers.

While it would be nice to think that once this omicron wave recedes we’ll be in for a longer period of calm, but Dr. Peter Hotez says don’t count on it.

Q: There’s a lot of talk about omicron creating herd immunity and the transition from pandemic to endemic. Your thoughts?

A: The big picture, I’m still concerned about. There’s a lot of happy talk about omicron somehow acting as a weakened virus, herd immunity and the end of the pandemic. I do not think so yet. I think we’re in for another wave this summer across Texas and it could be just like 2020 and 2021. Here are the reasons why.

One: I’m not convinced the durability of the protection from omicron is going to be adequate. It may resemble the short-lived immunity you get from the upper respiratory virus. The population could still be vulnerable in the spring.

And vaccination rates are still not great in lower- and middle-income countries where these variants arose. I think we’re still very vulnerable to another variant arising in Africa or Asia.

Q: As you pointed out, that runs contrary to a lot of the hopeful buzz about omicron that I’m coming across.

A: Yeah, you hear that coming from the White House. And I’m hearing it from a lot of my talking head colleagues. But to me, right now, that rings hollow. I don’t think it’s wise. I think what we need most urgently right now is a national strategy for how we’re going to prevent another big variant in the summer from hitting Texas and the southern United States. Here’s what I think that strategy requires.

One: a strategy for global immunization against COVID-19, which just doesn’t exist now. The White House announced another 400 million doses, which is slightly more than what our Texas Children’s vaccine has done. We need 9 billion doses.

Second: We need a greater understanding about the durability and protection from the mRNA boosters. We’re getting conflicting results about the durability. That needs to be clarified. We need to understand that for a strategy for moving forward. Whether we keep the singular focus on the mRNA vaccine or broaden our COVID stockpiles to include additional technology.

And let me say, third: What’s our plan for global surveillance? So far we’ve been surprised by every major variant of concern. We need predictable surveillance models, but we don’t have them. That’s a need. What I’d like to see coming out of the White House is a national strategic task force to really dive into those three components. We need a realistic plan for the country. And I just don’t get the sense we have that right now. Nationally, we’re still in reactive mode every time.

As noted, Dr. Hotez and his colleague Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi have done what they can to help with global vaccine supply. But we still need to get more shots in arms here – ESPECIALLY KIDS – and I don’t know what we can do to make that happen. Rewards and gimmicks might help a little around the margins, but not enough to really make a difference. The various federal mandates would have made a real difference, but well, you know. Your safety is officially in your hands. Don’t screw around with it.

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7 Responses to You don’t want to go to the ICU right now

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    Sounds to me like a lot of the lower staffing is due to people who quit or got fired because of vaccine mandates. This needs to be blamed on the federal government trying to push their handout to Big Pharma onto the public.

    Also, the people in charge of the hospitals need to be punished. They are rich, and they are ignoring the Covid rally cry: “we’re all in this together.”

    If the hospitals require vaccinations, then why are they having trouble with staffing due to people being out sick.

  2. Mainstream says:

    Jason, nonsense. The number of refuseniks is miniscule. Without vaccinations, the level of employees out on sick leave would be higher and even more dangerous to the staffing of the hospitals, to thus to the health of the community.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    “refusenik” is a term that means something other than not wanting your work to get into your personal life and tell you what to do with your health care. We know and there is no question that the vaccines do not stop you from getting COVID nor do they stop you from spreading it. Although we don’t know it, and there is no direct evidence, the vaccines can even be causing people to get sick through antibody dependent enhancement. It is a real possibility, but it cannot be publicly discussed or debated, or you’ll be censored.

  4. C.L. says:

    Although we don’t know it, and there is no direct evidence, the vaccine can even be causing… said no scientist ever.

  5. Jonathan Freeman says:

    We know that becoming fully vaccinated prevents the most severe of covid problems, just like vaccinations that have been around for decades. Given the numbers of people having to be admitted in hospitals amount to 95% that are not fully vaccinated, the effectiveness speaks for itself.

    Hospitals have had personnel shortages for a very long time, driving measures like allowing LPNs to handle responsibilities formally reserved for RNs and RNs assuming tasks only doctors would handle previously. This is not new to covid and can be readily researched by those with an open mind. In recent decades, it even drove measures to import nurses and doctors from foreign countries with numerous exemptions and allowances to bring them here.

    The recent shortages are said to be because some with already compromised immune systems do not want to catch it, or bring it home to family members they may be taking care of more than a refusal to get a vaccination. The numbers speak for themselves though given places with mandates such as Houston Methodist had a compliance rate of over 98% for their 26000 employees, the 153 employees who refused included more than just nurses and doctors. Lumping in unskilled or lesser skilled employees to bolster the numbers didn’t help their cause but even before the pandemic there were more than enough openings for those protesting to move along.

  6. Jason Hochman says:

    ‘Although we don’t know it, and there is no direct evidence, the vaccine can even be causing… said no scientist ever.’

    This comment is powerful evidence that voter suppression is necessary. Science is not about making fascist pronouncements, or telling people that Thanksgiving is cancelled this year. It is about study, and testing of hypotheses. It is always subject to revision.

    Voters need to know more about Science before they are allowed to vote. Candidates should be operating from a lab with a high BSL over 70 before they are allowed to run for office. I initially thought that Fauci should have been forced to resign with Dr. Collins, but now, I think that he should ride a bus to the federal death row in Terre Haute to huff some cyanide. Not only for the damage he has done to individual human lives, but also for the scientific disinformation he has spread. He is not the Science. I blame Trump for giving a podium to this nitwit.

    The 95% not fully vaccinated number is FACT CHECKED FALSE, unfortunately. The percentage of vaccinated hospitalized people has been increasing, and the data are not necessarily that great in any case. Review the BMJ from January 2022:

    The employees who resigned or got fired due to vaccine mandates certainly didn’t help the situation, did they? Not to mention that the government in some states decreed that non-emergency procedures must be cancelled. This caused, for example, one hospital in Pennsylvania to lose millions of dollars of revenue and go from 107 beds down to ten. That’s a big decrease, and as you can see, the government is not saving any lives. Of course hospitals are big business, and, if the Democrats weren’t anti-Semites, they would have run Bernie Sanders, the hospitals would be nationalized, doctors would be federal workers and capped at $87,425 dollars per year in salary and would have no rights to do anything other than what the Central Planning Commission told them to do.

  7. C.L. says:

    I see it’s #TinFoilHatThursday for our Good Doctor.

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