Texas health officials warn of full ICUs as state grapples with worsening Covid-19 surge
The latest surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations this summer is having a deepening effect in Texas, a state that has seen its leadership rebuke steps such as mandatory mask wearing, yet now faces hospitals stretched to capacity with sick patients.
And amid both the crises at health care facilities as well as court battles raging over the legality of safety measures in schools, recent news of Gov. Greg Abbott's positive test for Covid-19 has punctuated messaging from health officials that Texans need to remain vigilant during the pandemic.
The state's Department of State Health Services said Texas is in "one of its worst fights" it has faced with Covid-19, and mortuary trailers were requested this month as a preparatory maneuver.
"Hospital capacity concerns worsening. Fatalities are increasing faster," the department said Wednesday. More than 12,400 people are hospitalized with the virus as of Wednesday, according to state data, an increase from 10,791 last Wednesday.
ICU beds are running low, and health care employees are working frantically to find available space for those in need.
At Goodall Witcher Hospital in the central Texas town of Clifton, officials are finding it difficult to transfer Covid-19 patients in need of ICU care to other hospitals since they are at capacity, they say.
Chief Nursing Officer Joycesarah McCabe told CNN affiliate KWTX she calls hospitals throughout Texas, looking for availability. Sometimes calls are made to neighboring states, such as Louisiana or New Mexico.
"We have no beds, and then that's the end of the conversation. Some will say 'we are closed, we are on full divert, we've been on full divert for two weeks,'" McCabe told KWTX. "Sometimes on the other end of the phone you get someone that says, 'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.' Because they know we are desperate."
McCabe said staffers themselves have lost relatives or friends while providing care at the rural hospital. "A nurse, a sonographer and one of our physicians all lost someone either Saturday or Sunday to Covid. The youngest was 21, the oldest was 38," McCabe told KWTX.
Justin Squyres, a physician at the hospital, said to KWTX, "I lost my brother on Saturday. We waited five days for an ICU bed and it never happened.
"I have no way of knowing if an ICU bed would have saved him," Squyres said. "But he's not the only one, there are so many others."