“It has been an exponential increase”: hospitals are preparing for another wave as cases of covid-19 increase

(CNN) — Inside a Houston hospital partly transformed into a specialized unit in coronavirus, a doctor says he hopes to reach his capacity in the next 14 days.

“In the past three weeks, I have seen more admissions and sicker patients than in the previous 10 weeks,” says Dr. Joseph Varon, medical director of United Memorial Medical Center. “It has been an exponential increase in the severity of the disease and in the number of cases that we admit.”

In other US hospitals, there are similar scenes.

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At least 12 states are seeing an increase in daily hospitalizations, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week.

The trend is worrying: A sharp increase in patients can once again overwhelm hospitals, making critical resources, including staff, beds and fans, scarce.

Some hospitals are already so flooded that they have moved patients elsewhere, while others are taking steps to prepare for a surge.

The increases come weeks after many states began reopening their economies after prolonged closings designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The relaxed measures fueled the rapid spread of the virus and the influx of new patients needing hospitalization, some doctors say.

“I live near a beach, and you can see it’s like a party every day,” says Dr. David De La Zerda, ICU medical director and pulmonologist at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

According to forecasts published by the CDC, among the states that experienced an increase are Florida and Texas, which expect to see almost 2,000 new hospitalizations per day in mid-July. In Arizona and California, projections project about 1,500 new patients each day in the next two weeks.

Houston hospitals transferred patients

In Harris County, which encompasses Houston and is the most populous county in Texas, at least two hospitals are “at full capacity,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday.

“The threat … that covid-19 represents to our community at this time is greater than it has been. There is a severe and uncontrolled spread among our families, friends and communities, “said Turner. “And we have to slow down, so that it doesn’t overwhelm our healthcare system.”

Several hospitals in Houston are still within capacity limits, he said.

Among them, the United Memorial Medical Center is hovering around 80% of its capacity.

Parts of the hospital are making a rapid transition to coronavirus units, with airtight areas around sections where infected patients are stationed. And doctors like Varon, who has worked more than 100 consecutive days now, are becoming semi-specialists in the virus.

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“These patients are very sick. They are patients who are about to die. So, we have to admit them and once they are here, despite everything we do, they have to stay in the hospital for at least 5 to 10 days, “said Varon. “Sooner or later, within the next two weeks, we will be with a full house.”

Two facilities within the Harris Health System have had to distribute their “load” of patients, said the mayor.

“It really has intensified in the last month or so,” Charlie McMurray-Horton, associate administrator for Clinical Integration and Transformation at Harris Health System, told CNN affiliate KTRK.

“We are actively seeking to transfer ICU and overvoltage patients who are covid-positive and under investigation simply because we do not have the capacity to treat those patients,” said McMurray-Horton.

On July 1, Texas reported 6,904 total hospitalizations, a staggering record and an increase of more than 2,500 patients in one week. The state’s peak of hospitalizations in May was 1,888.

“Today’s figures, this week, in the last weeks are much worse than those of March, April and May. So if we stay on the current trajectory, we will have capacity problems, “Turner said.

Hospitals are filling up in other parts of the United States

Some local officials and public health administrators are already reporting on the hospital’s capacity with the latest influx of patients.

In Bexar County, home to San Antonio, authorities this week reported that the number of hospitalizations continues to increase, while the hospital’s capacity has dropped to just over 20%, CNN affiliate KSAT reported.

“The hospital’s capacity is filling up,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg warned on Twitter. “Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay home as much as possible and keep your distance in public. “

According to data published by the city of San Antonio, in early June there were 39 patients with coronavirus in the ICU and 20 with ventilators. As of June 30, 288 coronavirus patients were in the ICU and 158 on ventilators.

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Across the country, a southern California county reported an intensive care unit capacity of 99% over the weekend, after receiving overwhelmed patients from neighboring Imperial County.

“Since mid-June, there has been a growing health crisis with increasing coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and ICU bed use across our nation, the state of California, and here in Riverside County,” supervisor Victor Manuel Pérez said.

The county announced Monday that 96% of all ICU beds were in use, 3 percentage points less than over the weekend.

In Florida, the Jackson Health System reported a 108% increase in patients in just over two weeks in June, the data shows.

As cases across the state continue to rise, Jackson Health System President and CEO Carlos Migoya told CNN affiliate WPLG that hospitals could be in trouble.

“If we continue at the rate we have today, there will be a very high escalation and I don’t know if we won’t have enough beds, but it’s already tight.”

As cases increase, Miami-Dade hospitals will peak in about a month, the affiliate reported.


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