Texas hospitals grapple with staffing shortages as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Texas as the delta variant becomes dominant. On Wednesday, hospitalizations rose to 3,566, the highest since March 20, 2021.

Right now, all trauma service areas are sitting below the 15% trigger that would allow local leaders to roll back business capacity. But with 52% of the state’s eligible population fully vaccinated, hospitals are already concerned.

In Amarillo, where only 38% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, hospital systems are worried about staffing shortages.

“We don’t have a whole lot more capacity, if we ever see a significant surge, when we have to reconfigure things pretty quickly, because right now, we just, you know, mostly because of staffing shortages,” Dr. Brian Weis with Northwest Texas Hospital System said.

That’s becoming a statewide issue. In Abilene, hospitals are reaching out to local nursing students.

“Since our National Guard nurses and the state nurses are not here anymore, that has definitely created a deficit, and all hospitals are in a place right now that they are aggressively recruiting nurses. And so we’re reaching out to all the schools around here, whether it be Cisco ACU at Hanks, trying to recruit the nursing staff,” Dr. Rob Wiley with Hendrick Health in Abilene explained.

In Austin, they’re asking the state to step in, as the state did for hotspots in the past.

“All of our hospitals at this point have asked the state for staffing reinforcement, but we have yet to get an indication from the state that they’re going to be able to help and assist us, because they’re dealing with the same staffing issues,” Mayor Steve Adler said Tuesday.

This week, the governor confirmed he would not be issuing any additional mask mandates.

“We’re past the time of government mandates. We’re into the time for personal responsibility,” Gov. Greg Abbott said from Houston Wednesday.

He previously issued an executive order barring local governments from enforcing any mask mandate. So instead, Austin city leaders are trying to highly encourage masks again, even for those fully vaccinated.

“I know everybody’s tired. People who’ve taken the vaccine, say, ‘hey, I have already done everything that I’m supposed to do,’” Adler said Tuesday. “We have 10s of 1,000s of kids in our city under 12 who can’t take the vaccination right now. And our infectivity level in the community is so high and getting higher that those children are in danger.”

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