AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott says local hospitals are managing an increase in COVID-19 patients—even some from El Paso.
“We can certainly handle more patients. Our hospitals have assured us that they are still in a good situation,” Escott told KXAN’s Will DuPree Tuesday morning.
But he also warns positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing.
As of Monday, Escott confirmed to Travis County commissioners that COVID-19 cases have increased by more than 100% from the previous 12 days. He also said COVID-19 hospital admissions have seen a 50% increase from the previous 11 days, with a moving average of 30 hospitalizations per day.
After a summer surge, Escott said the moving average for hospitalizations had gone down to 12 per day.
“We’re getting close to tripling that moving average of new admissions to hospital, which is certainly concerning,” he told commissioners.
Currently, Austin-Travis County is in Stage 3 of its COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines. Escott said the trigger to move into Stage 4, or orange, is a moving average of 40 COVID-19 hospital admissions, but capacity has changed since health officials decided on that figure.
He said the cap on ICU admissions is lower than they originally thought, going from 331 ICU beds to 200 “based upon a number of factors.”
“What we learned in June or July is when we get to that place, we can only actually staff about 200 of these beds,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler explained on Facebook Monday night. “Which means that the triggers as we get from orange, we need to go into red, probably are going to come down.”
Escott said the threshold for moving from yellow to orange will also likely decrease to ensure hospitals don’t exceed capacity.
According to APH’s guidelines, that would mean avoiding dining and shopping except for expanded essential businesses and limiting gatherings to no more than two people for those who are at high risk.
He said previously, APH has utilized staff from other areas to help manage a COVID-19 surge. This time, those people are already being called out to other hotspots like El Paso.
“The people that we need to staff those beds—those extra beds—are not going to be there for the foreseeable future, because they are being utilized in other jurisdictions,” Escott said.
Escott said El Paso has almost as many active cases right now as Travis County’s total cases throughout the pandemic. The rising numbers come with a message for Central Texans to limit risk-taking behaviors over the holiday.
“The real threat is over Thanksgiving,” he said.
The Texas Department of State Health Services also tracks COVID-19 cases over time for the Austin region, which spans 11 counties including Caldwell, Hays and Williamson.
The latest hospitalization data from Monday shows 207 infected patients in area hospitals. That total was 99 a month ago. Of those, 74 of the existing patients are in ICUs.
Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David’s HealthCare report out of 2,473 combined staff beds, 76% are occupied and their 483 ICU beds are 84% occupied.