There are mixed messages coming out of Texas regarding hospital capacity as the state saw its 15th consecutive record-setting day for hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients Friday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suspended elective surgeries in four counties Thursday and activated other regulations Friday to curb the spread, including ordering bars to close again and restaurants to reduce seating capacity. The changes come in response to more than 23,000 confirmed new cases of the virus in Texas in the last four days.
As of Saturday morning, the state had 5,102 hospitalizations — a threefold increase from a month ago, according to the Associated Press. Statewide, 1,284 ICU beds are available and 5,807 ventilators are available, according to health department data.
But messaging on hospital capacity varies greatly by county, as does the data, which can be found stratified by trauma service area here. Regional data is crucial for large states, as individual hospitals can be in surge mode while the overall statewide capacity measurements look adequate.
The Texas Hospital Association reportedly told Mr. Abbott in a call earlier this week that hospitals have the necessary capacity to care for the influx of COVID-19 patients, with plans in place to serve increased patient volume and 15 percent of capacity reserved or COVID-19 patients.
David Callender, MD, CEO of 17-hospital Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, told CNBC on Friday that the system has ‘plenty of capacity’ to meet the demands of the COVID-19 surge.
At the same time, the Texas Tribune reports that some local officials are eyeing convention centers and stadiums as potential overflow facilities, such as in the Austin area. As of Saturday morning, the trauma service area containing Austin had 87 available ICU beds.
“In Travis County, authorities have been quietly recruiting dozens of volunteer doctors and nurses to staff a possible 100-bed hospital in the Austin Convention Center,” according to the Tribune report. “The site is not ‘currently functioning,’ but volunteers were given an estimated start date of mid-July, according to June emails sent to a member of the state’s disaster volunteer force and obtained by The Texas Tribune.”
Texas Medical Center in Houston reached 100 percent ICU capacity Thursday, but about 28 percent of the beds were used by COVID-19 patients, while 72 percent were occupied by non-COVID-19 patients, according to a document obtained by The Houston Chronicle and cited by Newsweek.
Also in Houston, Texas Children’s Hospital began admitting adult patients this week to help expand capacity in the greater Houston area.
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