Alternate care site could be opening in Austin as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise


FILE — Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Paulette Santillan departs after checking a COVID-19 patient’s vital signs in the improvised COVID-19 unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills neighborhood on July 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. The COVID-19 unit has been set up again to attend to a rise in COVID patients in a section of the hospital normally used for other purposes. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As hospitalizations continue to rise locally, and statewide, Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, announced APH could open an alternate care site.

“We have plans ready to go for that,” Walkes said in a joint Austin City Council and Travis County Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

She said APH has already requested the staff for that facility. Walkes had previously said staffing would be a barrier for getting that site opened.

Walkes did not announce where that facility would be or when it would be operational. APH told KXAN that they’re still in the planning stages.

According to the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 dashboard, 589 people are in area hospitals with COVID-19. 213 people are in the ICU with the virus, 134 of them on ventilators.

As of Saturday, there was one ICU bed available in Austin-Travis County.

“We have patients that are on stretchers in hallways,” Walkes said. “We make adjustments when we need to in our hospital settings but that’s not ideal.”

Most of the people in area hospitals are unvaccinated, according to Walkes.

Since the start of the year, 2,663 people who are fully vaccinated have tested positive for COVID-19 in our area. Walkes said many of those cases were from the most recent surge. That’s of the more than 690,000 people who have gotten their final vaccine dose.

“We also know that for the most part the illness that has occurred has been mild and has not required hospitalization,” Walkes said of those breakthrough cases.

Walkes also talked Tuesday about a rise in pediatric cases in Austin-Travis County.

Since the beginning of July, 21 people under the age of 18 have been admitted to the ICU with COVID-19. One of them required a ventilator. That child had underlying health conditions, Walkes said.

“We’re cautious about what’s going to occur with children who are not able to receive vaccinations, who are under the age of 12,” she said of schools reopening. Austin ISD kicked off the school year Tuesday.

Statewide, Texas is hitting hospital capacity numbers we haven’t seen since the end of January.

According to DSHS’ COVID-19 dashboard, there are 327 available ICU beds for the entire state. Also according to that dashboard, 11,791 people are in Texas hospitals with COVID-19. That data was updated Monday.

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