Texas hospitals are already overloaded with Covid patients

Elizabeth Gonzales comforts her 14-year-old daughter, Cerena, as she recoveres from being put on a ventilator in the pediatric intensive care unit of the Children's Hospital of San Antonio in Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. (Meridith Kohut/The New York Times)

At least two hospitals in Houston have been so overwhelmed with coronavirus patients this week that officials erected overflow tents outside. In Austin, hospitals were nearly out of beds in their intensive care units. And in San Antonio, a spike in virus cases reached alarming levels not seen in months, with children as young as 2 months old tethered to supplemental oxygen.

Across Texas, health officials warned of overloaded, strained hospitals, a growing crisis not seen since early February, when a late winter wave deluged the state’s health care system. More than 10,000 Texans have been hospitalized this week, and at least 53 hospitals were at maximum capacity in their intensive care units.

“If this continues, and I have no reason to believe that it will not, there is no way my hospital is going to be able to handle this. There is no way the region is going to be able to handle this,” Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, a top health official in Harris County, which includes Houston, told state legislators Tuesday. “I am one of those people that always sees the glass half-full; I always see the silver lining. But I am frightened by what is coming.”

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In recent days, Texas has averaged about 12,400 new cases a day, nearly double the number seen just two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database. The spike comes as about 1 in 5 U.S. hospitals with intensive care units, or 583 total hospitals, recently reported that at least 95% of their ICU beds were full. One worry about the highly contagious delta variant, which has fueled surges across the country, is whether it might test the capacity of health systems.

Hospitals in New Orleans, Miami, Jackson, Mississippi, and Huntsville, Alabama, have been taxed this week, too, as cases continue to rise across the South. Texas is among several states grappling with dangerous surges exacerbated by the delta variant, which the White House recently said was as contagious as chickenpox.

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