Monday, September 20, 2021

Travis County Hospital Capacity Challenges in Current Wave of COVID

Joint Media Statement: COVID-19 Update for Austin/Travis County

"Recent headlines have indicated a downward trend in COVID-19 cases in our community. While the overall number of cases has declined from the peak during this recent third surge, it is important for all Central Texas residents to have the full picture of where we are in this pandemic so that you may plan accordingly for you, your family and friends, and workplaces.

Hospital COVID admissions are declining, but we are not past this surge yet. Since July, our hospitals in the greater Austin area have had more than 3,500 COVID inpatients, and more than 1,000 of those required care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Unlike previous COVID surges, all of the acute care hospitals were very full with non-COVID care when this surge started. ICUs across the Austin area are now completely full, and many hospitals are surging beyond their licensed ICU space to provide ICU-level care to COVID patients in need. The vast majority of these COVID patients are on ventilators, and approximately 90% of them are unvaccinated. Generally, patients who have been hospitalized during this surge are sicker and staying in the hospital longer. Due to the overcrowding, many patients from regional and rural hospitals that depend on Austin-area hospitals for complex care have not been able to be transferred.

In this current surge, only a third of hospitalized patients are over 65 years old. During the previous surge, patients over 65 made up over 50% of hospital patients. Sadly, the mortality rate for hospitalized patients is higher for this COVID surge than our last surge and is now approaching 10%. We are seeing an alarming number of otherwise young and healthy patients, including pregnant patients, develop severe COVID.

The capacity challenges are impacting all of the hospitals across the Central Texas region. We want to continue to provide lifesaving care for patients who have a heart attack, a stroke, or are injured in a car wreck. To do that, we need your help. To make sure our hospitals have enough space to care for our community — including you and your loved ones who may unexpectedly need hospital care — we urge you to get your COVID-19 vaccine, wear a mask and practice physical distancing. Please do your part to cut down on the number of COVID cases in our community, and help us care for you.

If you have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, we join our physician colleagues across the community in strongly urging everyone 12 and over to do so. Data shows that vaccines are safe, effective and a proven way to avoid being critically ill as a result of COVID."

- Desmar Walkes, M.D., Medical Director/Health Authority, City of Austin
- Samson Jesudass, M.D., Chief Clinical Officer, Ascension Texas,
- Kenneth W. Mitchell, M.D., Senior Vice President & Chief Medical Officer, St. David's HealthCare
- Robin Watson, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Baylor Scott & White Health Greater Austin Region.

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