Texas Hospitals Are Already Overloaded. Doctors Are ‘Frightened by What Is Coming.’

The city of San Antonio, Texas — At least two Houston hospitals have been so overrun with coronavirus patients that overflow tents have been set up outside this week. Intensive care beds were nearly depleted in Austin’s hospitals. Children as young as two months old were tethered to supplemental oxygen due to a spike in virus cases in San Antonio.

Overwhelmed, overworked hospitals have been a growing problem in Texas since early February, when a late winter storm deluged the state’s health care system with patients. ICUs at at least 53 hospitals in Texas have reached maximum capacity this week, with more than 10,000 Texans being hospitalised in the last few days.

“My hospital will be unable to handle this if it continues, which I have no reason to believe it will. Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, a top health official in Harris County, which includes Houston, told state legislators on Tuesday that “there is no way the region will be able to handle this.” You know, I’m one of those people who always sees the silver lining in every situation. “However, I am afraid of what is to come.”

According to a New York Times database, Texas has seen an average of 12,400 new cases a day in recent days, nearly double the number seen just two weeks ago.

As many as one in five U.S. hospitals with intensive care units (totaling 583 facilities) recently reported that at least 95% of their I.C.U. beds were full.

This has caused a spike in the number of patients in these facilities. One concern about the highly contagious Delta variant, which has sparked surges across the country, is that it may put health systems to the test.

New Orleans, Jackson, Mississippi, Miami and Huntsville in Alabama have all seen an increase in the number of cases this week, as have hospitals in the rest of the South. The White House recently said that the Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox, and Texas is one of several states dealing with dangerous surges exacerbated by this strain.

In Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas, cases spiked earlier this summer. The vast majority of Texas hospitalised patients are unvaccinated, according to state authorities.

Due to a sudden rise in infection rates, the effectiveness of masks has been brought back to public attention. This comes at a time when the governor of the state of Texas, Greg Abbott, is standing firm in his refusal to implement any state mandates requiring masks.

For the sake of the overburdened hospitals, Mr. Abbott has urged health care workers from other states to come to Texas and lend a hand.

According to the Covid-19 model consortium at the University of Texas at Austin, the state’s total number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations is expected to reach well over 15,000 by the end of August.

“The fact that we’re having to build the tents shows that the system in general is not prepared,” said Amanda Callaway, associate administrator for Harris Health System, which oversees the two Houston-area hospitals requiring overflow space.

A lot of people are worried. You can only do so much in so many rooms. In order to respond quickly, we’re just doing our best.

At least 90% of the coronavirus patients have not been vaccinated, according to the doctor who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorised to speak publicly.

Dr. David Persse, Houston’s chief medical officer, blamed the lack of attention by state officials to highlight the importance and necessity of vaccinations to stem the surge, with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott framing it as an issue of personal rights. He said, “It is the wrong approach,” Dr. Persse. There has been a lot of talk about the dangers of people exercising their right to make their own decisions because of the rhetoric surrounding this.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks indoors in high-risk areas, Mr. Abbott, like governors in Florida and elsewhere in the South, maintained his position. Local governments and school districts are prohibited from requiring vaccines or masks under his executive order.

Even so, local officials in some of the state’s largest cities, including San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Austin, have defied Mr. Abbott’s orders and issued new mask requirements in city buildings and schools, citing the unimpeded spread of the virus and still too-low vaccination rates, despite his directives. Texas has a vaccination rate of about 56% for adults 18 and over.

There were nearly 240 Texas children hospitalised on Tuesday with the coronavirus, according to the state health department. On Wednesday, President Biden told reporters that he was looking into whether the federal government has the authority to intervene in state mandates issued by Mr. Abbott, citing those numbers.

A “dire” situation had been declared in Austin’s state capital by officials who warned residents that hospitals were running low on staff and resources as a result of the influx of patients.

A resurgence of Covid-19 symptoms, including high fevers, chills, coughs, and shortness of breath, was being treated at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio earlier this week, raising alarm. Hospital officials reported that the virus was found in a large number of patients who had arrived with unrelated illnesses.

Hospital chief physician Dr. Norman Christopher said the overcrowded ward with up to 15 Covid patients a day was caused by the Delta variant and other respiratory infections.

There is a new phase in which “volumes are increasing much more exponentially here,” Dr. Christopher said. When compared to where we were a few months ago, we’re doing pretty well.

While working in the hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit, Dr. Abhishek Patel observed two infants who had been infected with Covid-19 and were reliant on oxygen. Two teenagers, both of whom had underlying health issues, died from the virus this week alone, he said.

Cerena Gonzales, 14, wailed in agony in a nearby room. Last week, she was a giddy adolescent anticipating the start of her high school freshman year. She was surrounded by medical equipment on Tuesday.

They became ill after their parents Carlos and Elizabeth Gonzales developed Covid symptoms and were taken to the hospital. She and her younger sister got sick as a result. Ms. Gonzales claimed that none of them had received any form of vaccination.

Miss Gonzales admitted that she and her team had second thoughts. “We were all in good health,” he said.

On her way to her daughter’s bedside, Ms. Gonzales used two portable oxygen tanks to keep her afloat. The mother’s touch on her daughter’s forehead was an attempt to maintain a positive attitude in her daughter.

A few days earlier, doctors put her on speakerphone so she could hear as her daughter was being intubated. She recalled the harrowing scene with tears in her eyes. Ms. Gonzales admitted, “I thought I was going to lose my mind.” The words “I couldn’t be there with her” ring loud and clear in my ears.

Mrs. Gonzales expressed optimism that the worst of the crisis was over by Tuesday afternoon. She gently untangled her daughter’s thick black hair from IV tubes and encouraged her to drink orange juice.

For the first time, she plans to organise a vaccination trip for her entire family. “This should never happen to any parent,” she said.

Anne Marie Baker, a paediatric nurse working nearby, had the unenviable task of disinfecting a room where the virus had just claimed the life of a teenager. To regain her composure, Ms. Baker removed her masks and slumped into a chair. There is a higher risk for children under the age of 12 who have not yet received a vaccine, she said.

A few months ago, “we just had all of these patients,” she explained. Just thinking about it makes me want to weep.