Friday, July 30, 2021

Fri, Jul 30, 2021: Urgent Action Needed from Community as Number of Staffed ICU Beds Reaches Critical Levels

Austin Public Health Urges Public to Act Now to Curb Latest Surge

Austin, Texas – As the 7-day moving average reaches the critical point of 50 new admissions, an important threshold for Stage 5, Austin Public Health (APH) is now urging the community to act as the situation becomes dire. The 11 county Trauma Service Region O (TSA-O), which includes Austin and provides service to over 2.3 million residents, is facing low ICU bed capacity similar to the beginning of the pandemic. TSA-O is now fluctuating at 16 staffed ICU beds available. To reiterate, 16 ICU beds for 11 counties with over 2.3 million residents.

"We are running out of time and our community must act now," Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority said. "Our ICU capacity is reaching a critical point where the level of risk to the entire community has significantly increased, and not just to those who are needing treatment for COVID. If we fail to come together as a community now, we jeopardize the lives of loved ones who might need critical care."

In a joint statement by Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White and St. David's Healthcare, the hospitals noted, "The latest COVID-19 spike is putting extraordinary pressure on our hospitals, emergency departments and healthcare professionals, and it has further challenged hospital staffing due to a longstanding nursing shortage."

As the risk for all individuals across the community, regardless of COVID-19, continues to significantly increase with critical care capacity dwindling, APH, Travis County and local hospital partners continue monitoring several key indicators including the 7-day moving average of new hospital admissions, positivity rate, the doubling time of new cases, and current ICU and ventilator patients.

 Over the past week these indicators have surged:  

  • The 7-day moving average for hospitalizations in a week has increased over 47% from 34 to 50 new admissions on July 30.
  • COVID patients in local ICUs have increased 28% from 91 people on July 23 to 117 people on July 30. 
  • COVID patients on ventilators have increased 38% from 47 on July 23 to 65 people on July 30.
Recommendations the public need to immediately follow include:
  • Vaccinated individuals should choose drive-through and curbside options, outdoor activities, returning to social interactions with limited group sizes, as well as social distancing and wearing masks indoors.
     
  • Partially or unvaccinated individuals should avoid gatherings, travel, dining and shopping choosing curbside and delivery options instead. Wear a mask when conducting essential activities.
The COVID-19 vaccines continue to prove effective in protecting those who have completed the required series of shots for Moderna and Pfizer, or the single dose of Johnson and Johnson.  Only 63.12% of residents are fully vaccinated, leaving our community vulnerable to new variants of the disease, and contributing to a dramatic increase in the positivity rate that has now reached 13.7% - the highest since early January 2021.

"We know our community has been resilient in fighting this pandemic over the last 18 months, and we are yet again calling on everyone to help one another by taking action that can slow this surge," Adrienne Sturrup, Interim APH Director said. "Everyone is exhausted at this point, but we will continue to lose loved ones if we don't heed the warnings the data is showing us and take the appropriate actions of getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and staying home if we are sick."

For the month of July, more than 4,600 new, confirmed COVID-19 cases and 19 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported to Austin Public Health (APH). 

For more information about COVID-19, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.

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