AUSTIN (KXAN) — State data shows there are only 13 intensive care unit beds available in the 11-county Austin region. That means more than 98% of all ICU beds in the area are currently occupied.
This comes as Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new executive order Thursday that prevents local officials from enacting COVID-19 mask mandates and business restrictions.
According to data from Austin Public Health, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the five-county Austin metro peaked at 619 on Jan. 19. Right now, 325 people are hospitalized with the virus.
On Thursday, more than 6,300 new confirmed cases were reported in the state. With the increased transmissibility of the delta variant, hospitals in the area say the surge in cases is “putting extraordinary pressure on [their] hospitals, emergency departments and healthcare professionals.”
That’s in part due to a longstanding nursing shortage, officials say in a joint release from Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David’s HealthCare. They’re asking members of the community to get vaccinated and wear a mask before it’s too late.
ER Doctor Natasha Kathuria says she’s seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases among the unvaccinated.
“It affects everyone, it affects our management and our ability to care for everyone, not just COVID patients. So it’s very stressful,” said Kathuria. “It’s an entire system that gets stressed, and when a system gets stressed, that means our care gets stressed on every type of illness, not just COVID-19.”
An Austin Public Health spokesperson says the department is still discussing plans for an alternate care site and is prepared to mobilize if the request comes from the hospitals.
“We’re at a crossroads,” Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said on Tuesday. “We’re planning for alternate care sites now.”
Local leaders are also looking at mass casualty plans.
The hospitals say in their joint statement if they reach capacity, each hospital “has a surge plan that includes the utilization of all available patient care space and employees within [their] hospitals and in other settings across [their] healthcare systems.”
The hospital systems also say they’re bringing in additional staff using regional and national resources. Officials say they could transfer patients between facilities within their respective health care systems to provide the most fitting care.