Nearly every ICU bed in Central Texas filled amid COVID-19 surge, officials warn

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In Central Texas, an 11-county region home to more than 2 million people, nearly every ICU bed has been filled amid a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

Health officials in Austin on Friday warned residents that there are just 16 staffed intensive care unit beds available, which is the lowest the figure has been since coronavirus first started its spread across the state. The effected area, dubbed “Trauma Region O,” includes Travis County, in which Austin is located, as well as another 10 counties.

“We are running out of time and our community must act now,” Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a release Friday evening.

“Our ICU capacity is reaching a critical point where the level of risk to the entire community has significantly increased, and not just to those who are needing treatment for COVID. If we fail to come together as a community now, we jeopardize the lives of loved ones who might need critical care.”

In a joint statement by Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White, and St. David’s Healthcare, the hospitals added that the latest wave of coronavirus, fueled by the highly-contagious delta variant, is putting “extraordinary pressure on our hospitals, emergency departments, and health care professionals, and it has further challenged hospital staffing due to a longstanding nursing shortage.”

According to data gathered by the city and Travis County, the 7-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations has climbed more than 47% over the past week. In the same time span, the number of patients in local ICUs also jumped from 91 to 117, marking a 28% increase, while the number of patients on ventilators rose from 47 to 65, a 38% increase, the city’s statement said.

According to Austin Public Health, 63.12% of residents are fully vaccinated so far, but it’s not enough to provide protection for the general public. Skepticism surrounding the inoculations has in part resulted in a dramatic increase in the positivity rate of 13.7%. It’s the highest the figures have been since early January 2021.

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