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CEO: Houston hospitals could be overwhelmed in two weeks at the current COVID hospitalization rate

Healthcare providers say this means some patients, whether they have COVID or not, may not be able to get the care they need.

HOUSTON — The CEO of Memorial Hermann in Houston told KHOU 11 News on Tuesday that hospitals could be “overwhelmed” in just two weeks at the current coronavirus hospitalization rate in our region.

KHOU 11’s Stephanie Whitfield reported that 40% of TMC's ICU beds are currently COVID patients.

During the summer 2020 spike in cases, in which we saw about 4,000 to 5,000 new COVID cases daily across the state of Texas, Memorial Hermann CEO Dr. David Callender said there were still plenty of beds available. The current spike, however, may be a different story. 

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Now we are seeing about 15,000 new COVID cases daily across the state with more than 10,000 on-going hospitalizations as of early January.

Not out of hospital beds — for now

“If we are overwhelmed, which means we just don’t have enough beds and staff to care for the full demand for hospitalization, then people won’t be able to get the care they need,” said Callender on Tuesday. “We won’t be able to take good care of people who are sick with COVID or some other illness, and that’s very problematic."

“We’re not out of beds today, but if we keep growing at this rate — when I say growing I mean the number of cases, the number of hospitalizations for COVID patients, we could easily be there in the next couple of weeks.”

Credit: TMC
TMC Daily New Covid-19 Hospitalizations as of Jan. 11, 2021

On Monday, the Texas Medical Center in Houston said it admitted about 300 new coronavirus patients — a similar daily number to the week before. Last month, the hospital system was admitting about 200 daily.

Another growing concern is that even if there are beds and rooms available, hospital staffers are getting burned out.

Also on Tuesday, the Trump administration asked states to speed delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to people 65 and older and to others at high risk by no longer holding back the second dose of the two-dose shots.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said “the administration in the states has been too narrowly focused.” The White House is asking states to vaccinate people age 65 and over and those under 65 with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk. He said the vaccine production is such that the second dose of the two-shot vaccine can be released without jeopardizing immunization for those who got the first shot.

“We now believe that our manufacturing is predictable enough that we can ensure second doses are available for people from ongoing production," Azar told ABC's “Good Morning America.” Read more here about the national vaccine rollout here.

The Associated Press and KHOU 11's Stephanie Whitfield contributed to this report