In South Texas, a school district is turning over portable trailers to be used for hospital space. In San Antonio and Austin, concert and convention venues are being prepped as field hospitals. In North Texas, Medical City Healthcare opened more COVID-19 units this week, and Parkland Hospital had to request a disaster assistance team.
Texas is entering a dire new phase of the coronavirus epidemic. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 keep climbing to record levels, and the state health department on Friday said it had no prediction for when that will stop.
As cases surge, hospitals say they have space to add more beds, but lack staff. The state is scrambling to send them more.
Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott is warning the worst is yet to come. The second-term Republican has now canceled elective surgeries in over 100 counties to free up more bed space. On Friday, he hinted another statewide lockdown could be necessary but gave no indication when that might happen.
Over the last two weeks, the number of Texans hospitalized for COVID-19 has climbed every day, from about 5,500 at the end of June to more than 10,000 on Friday.
“We don’t see a leveling off happening in the immediate future,” Parkland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Joe Chang, said in a statement Friday. “At this point, we simply don’t know when that will occur.”
Texas hit record highs this week in all major measures used to judge the severity of the outbreak.
The 56,000 positive cases reported this week account for almost one-quarter of the state’s total cases to date. And of the state’s 3,031 deaths, almost 300 were reported in the last three days.
On Friday, Texas’ U.S. senators and three members of congress from the region called on the federal government to set up an emergency field hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. Nine of the area’s 12 hospitals were unable to accept patients on Friday.
“Unfortunately, with recent surges in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks, our health systems have been pushed to their limits,” said the letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “COVID-19 cases in South Texas are at their highest peak since the pandemic began, with no indication that case counts will level out soon.”