COVID-19 exhausting Texas ICU beds as hospitalizations soar

In this file photo, a man with COVID-19, wearing a protective cover, is transferred from the emergency room to a COVID-19 unit July 27 at Starr County Memorial Hospital in Rio Grande City. (Eric Gay | The Associated Press)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Coronavirus cases are exhausting the availability of intensive-care unit beds in parts of Texas as hospitalizations with COVID-19 continue to soar to record levels, state health statistics showed on Tuesday.

Hospitalizations with the illness the coronavirus causes set a ninth-consecutive record by topping 13,300 on Tuesday, with 626 patients requiring intensive care, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. In all, the state estimated 314,465 COVID-19 cases were active.

All ICU beds at hospitals in the Abilene and Bryan-College Station areas are full, while only two are available in the Laredo area with three in the Paris-Texarkana area. ICU bed availability is in the single digits in the Wichita Falls-Northwest Texas, Lufkin-Piney Woods, Waco, Galveston-Beaumont and Victoria areas.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted that the Houston region officially topped the state’s hospitalization threshold triggering COVID-19 reopening rollbacks.

For seven days in a row, COVID-19 patients have filled in 15% of the Houston region’s hospital beds, according to state health statistics.

Under those conditions, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has allowed county officials to ratchet back the number of people allowed in restaurants and other businesses from 75% of their capacity to 50% and require hospitals to postpone elective surgeries. Bars also must close, although Harris County bars never reopened bars after Abbott allowed counties to keep them closed.

“Honestly, this is just another milestone on the road to a catastrophe unless each of us acts. We can’t rely on a small occupancy rollback. Do your part,” she tweeted.

But U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, the Republican congressman representing some of Houston’s northern suburbs, urged the public to ignore the appeal by Hidalgo, a Democrat.

“Businesses should not comply. Lockdowns are not supported by law, they are unconstitutional edicts. Law enforcement should not enforce this. Stop stealing people’s right to make a living,” Crenshaw tweeted.

The state reported 26,543 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,637 new probable cases Tuesday, bringing the total in Texas for the eight-month outbreak to more than 1.6 million. The 250 newly reported deaths brought the state’s total death toll to 28,219

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