COVID Surge Straining Hospital Capacity

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with a statement from Texas Hospital Association president and CEO Ted Shaw)

A new COVID-19 surge attributed to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant is straining local hospital capacity.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said there were two pediatric ICU beds available in the local 19-county hospital region as of Tuesday, and only 14 adult ICU beds available in Dallas County as of Monday, according to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council. 

“These are not just for COVID. Car wrecks and anything else — if your child needs ICU and a ventilator in a 19-county area, we have two (pediatric ICU beds),” Jenkins said. “The same could be said for our hospitals, which are at 90% capacity for staffed beds, and these aren’t just beds, as I’ve said for COVID-19. These are all beds.”

Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Phil Huang also said Tuesday the county reported a three-day total of 3,270 new cases from between Saturday and Monday.

Huang added that while data showing vaccinated people can still spread the delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 prompted health officials to recommend people continue to wear masks indoors and social distance regardless of vaccination status, the vaccines remain effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

“The vast majority of people I am seeing are unvaccinated in the hospital,” Dr. Emma Dishner said. “And almost exclusively those admitted to the ICU are unvaccinated.”

Amid the rising hospitalizations in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced late Monday that he sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures to increase hospital capacity. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will also be utilizing staffing agencies to provide medical personnel from out-of-state to Texas health care facilities to assist in COVID-19 operations, he said.

“Texans can help bolster our efforts by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and it is our best defense against this virus. Texans can visit covidvaccine.texas.gov to find a COVID-19 vaccine provider near them,” Abbott said Monday. 

So far, though, Abbott has not responded to the decisions of Dallas ISD and Austin ISD to require masks when school starts despite Abbott’s order that public schools and local governments can’t require them or to legal challenges to the mask mandate ban from Jenkins, San Antonio and Bexar County. 

(Read: Jenkins Files For Restraining Order Over Abbott’s Mask Mandate Ban)

Texas Hospital Association president and CEO Ted Shaw said bolstering hospital staffing is appreciated.

“This help could not come fast enough. Many hospitals have already idled non-essential services and are diverting patients to extend staffing capability. We look forward to a swift influx of out-of-state personnel, coordinated by the state through staffing agencies,” Shaw said. “The hospital industry is losing frontline staff, particularly nurses, to burnout and illness; many have left the profession due to the extreme nature of the work during a relentless pandemic. The Texas Hospital Association looks forward to being at the table to determine the best way to quickly tackle and execute state-coordinated staffing, and how best to use available dollars to fund this life-saving work.”

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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