With ICU beds down to a single digit, Austin sounded the alarm Saturday, using its emergency alert system to let residents in the Texas capital city know that the local state of the pandemic is “dire.”
The Austin area — with a population of almost 2.4 million people — has just six intensive-care unit beds left, state health data show. A total of 313 ventilators are available.
“The situation is critical,” Public Health Medical Director Desmar Walkes said in a statement Saturday, warning of a “catastrophe” as it sent the notification to residents at noon through text messages, emails and phone calls. “Our hospitals are severely stressed and there is little we can do to alleviate their burden with the surging cases.”
The warning came just two days after the city’s health department bumped up its risk level to its highest at stage 5 due to the highly contagious delta variant, pushing residents to get vaccinated, stay home and mask up even if they have had their shots.
The risk level was raised after the seven-day moving average for new hospital admissions increased more than 600% in the past month, while patients in intensive-care units jumped 570%. Covid patients on ventilators surged to 102 as of Saturday from just eight on July 4, the health department said. More may follow as cases in the Austin area increased 10 times.
“Hospital bed availability and critical care is extremely limited in our hospital systems,” Walkes said, rallying residents to help “stave off disaster.”
The jump in cases is also seen nationwide. New infections in the U.S. have rebounded to more than 100,000 a day on average, returning to levels of the winter surge six months ago. Weekly cases on Friday passed 750,000, the most since early February, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.
Cases are rising even as the U.S. pace of vaccination started to tick up after months of decline. Daily average deaths more than doubled in the past month, even while remaining far below the levels of last winter, with health-care experts warning that the pace of new infections could trigger deadlier mutations.
“It clearly has taken a very bad turn,” Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden, said in a Bloomberg Quicktake interview earlier this week.
He also singled out Texas, along with Florida, as the two states that are “are accounting for a very disproportionately high proportion — something like 40% of the infections.”
Texas, with a population of about 29 million, has 439 ICU beds available — and 6,991 ventilators. The Houston area, with a population of 6.7 million, has just 41 ICU beds remaining. The greater Dallas area, which has more than 8 million people, has 110 ICU beds available.
The number of infections surged by 23,096 in Texas on Friday, the most since February, and 11,072 more cases were added on Saturday — often a reduced number due to fewer tests processed on weekends.
With assistance from Ian Fisher and Madison Mills.
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited