AUSTIN (KXAN) — “We are tired.”

The words of Austin-area intensive care unit physician Dr. Shailaja Hayden are not only hers, but of all healthcare workers in the area as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise out of control.

Hayden spoke with Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County’s interim health authority, and Travis County Judge Andy Brown during Escott’s COVID-19 update with Brown, and her words were both powerful and a plea for help from the community.

“The projections are chilling,” she said following Escott’s explanation of data projections from the University of Texas, showing ICU beds could be full by next week. “We are working at capacity, and the idea that numbers can increase is daunting.”

While speaking on the video conference, Hayden was in a room previously occupied by a patient who was transferred to Austin from a town in West Texas because hospitals were overwhelmed and had to send people elsewhere for care. Hayden said, while the person fought valiantly for life, they had recently died from COVID-19 complications hundreds of miles from home and family.

“That’s something I don’t want to see happening here in Austin,” she said. “Since all our surrounding metro regions are also in bad shape, there may be nowhere to transport anybody, and we may end up in a situation where we have to use less-experienced staff in makeshift rooms, and that’s a nightmare none of us want to come to.”

Escott went over the numbers with Brown, like he did Monday during Austin Public Health’s media availability videoconference, and they remain grim. Currently, 132 of 200 ICU beds are in use in the Austin-Travis County area. Models from UT show that if not decreased, the current rate of transmission could lead to ICUs being full by Jan. 7.

“This is something that leads to unsustainable growth,” Escott said. “This is what we saw in Wuhan, New York and on the West Coast early on. Hospitals will go from kind of full and being OK, to overwhelmed in a period of a few days. That’s how quickly it changes.”

He said if communities respond after that happens, it takes “weeks” for hospitals to come down from that.

He said the seven-day rolling average of new cases is 417, and the rolling hospitalization average is now 64 with 68 new admissions reported Monday.

He pointed out that for the past three weeks hospitals have admitted around 21-22 people aged 20-29 per week, and since the risk of hospitalization for that age group is so low, there’s “massive” amounts of transmission within that age group, as well as the 30-39 age group.

“We need to impact the transmission in those age groups,” Escott said. “It’s particularly important for people in those age groups to understand that you can end up in critical care if you’re young. You can die, even if you’re young.”

Hayden said she treated a 25-year-old COVID-19 patient who died of the disease, and she said that’s something she “never wants to see again.”

While she said the chances of a young person dying from COVID-19 are small, they are still there and that people can “have a hellish journey in the hospital before you recover that can change your life forever.”

“A virtual holiday celebration is kinda lame, but a virtual funeral is heartbreak,” she said. “To do what you can to protect not only yourself, but your mom, someone else’s mom, or anyone out in the community who may not be able to withstand this disease.”