Texas Hospitals Strained as Delta Variant Coronavirus Cases Spread

Elizabeth Gonzales comforted her 14-year-old daughter, Cerena, on Tuesday as Cerena recovered from being put on a ventilator in the pediatric intensive care unit of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. (Credit…Meridith Kohut for The New York Times)

Hospitals in Texas are warning of strained resources during a week in which more than 10,000 coronavirus patients have been admitted to hospitals in the state.

At least 53 Texas hospitals had intensive care units that were at maximum capacity. Two in Houston have been so overwhelmed that officials ordered overflow tents to be erected outside. In Austin, intensive care units were running short of beds. And in San Antonio, virus cases reached alarming levels not seen in months, with infants as young as 2 months tethered to supplemental oxygen.

“If this continues, and I have no reason to believe that it will not, there is no way my hospital is going to be able to handle this. There is no way the region is going to be able to handle this,” Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, president and chief executive of the Harris Health System, in Houston, told state legislators on Tuesday. “I am one of those people that always sees the glass half-full, I always see the silver lining. But I am frightened by what is coming.”

Recently, Texas has averaged about 12,400 new cases a day, nearly double the number seen just two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database. The spike comes as about one in five U.S. hospitals with intensive care units, or 583 total hospitals, recently reported that at least 95 percent of their I.C.U. beds were full as the highly contagious Delta variant fuels surges across the country.

The sudden increase of infections has refocused national attention on the efficacy of masks and comes as Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas remains firm in his refusal to enact any statewide mandates. To manage the surge, he appealed to out-of-state health care workers to travel to Texas, where coronavirus-related hospitalizations are projected to exceed 15,000 by the end of August, according to the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. David Persse, Houston’s chief medical officer, blamed state officials for giving inadequate attention to the importance of vaccinations to stem the surge. Mr. Abbott’s framing of vaccinations as an issue of individual rights is “the wrong approach,” Dr. Persse said. The unvaccinated, he said, “are endangering themselves and their families.”

In a new and unnerving development, as of Tuesday, about 240 Texas children were hospitalized with the virus, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Citing those figures, President Biden on Wednesday told reporters that he was exploring whether the federal government has the authority to intervene in the orders issued by Mr. Abbott.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Edgar Sandoval and Giulia Heyward

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