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Politics : The Trump Presidency

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From: Brumar898/9/2021 6:02:17 PM
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Overflow COVID tents pop up outside LBJ Hospital as delta pushes Harris Health near ICU capacity

Gwendolyn Wu, Staff writer
Aug. 9, 2021Updated: Aug. 9, 2021
1of5A construction crew works to setup tents in case of overflow COVID-19 and ICU patients outside Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, in Houston.

Godofredo A. Vásquez, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer



Harris Health System’s intensive care units are nearly full as the delta variant sends more COVID-19 patients into hospitals, prompting the safety-net health system for the county’s indigent communities to construct tents for triaging patients.

As of Monday afternoon, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital’s ICU was 100 percent full, and 63 percent of patients were being treated for COVID-19 complications. Ben Taub Hospital’s ICU was 95 percent full, with 27 percent of patients sickened by the virus.

“The trend line is vertical,” said Bryan McLeod, a spokesperson for Harris Health.

The tents apparent outside the hospital in northeast Houston could be used for COVID-19 overflow patients, but officials may also choose to use it for patients who come in with other illnesses. Last summer, they were used to diagnose coronavirus cases, McLeod said.

MORE FROM THE COVID TEAM: A Houston restaurant owner says he was brainwashed into not trusting the vaccine. Then he got COVID.

This year, they may just be used to treat non-COVID patients, or those with less severe infections. Staff are still installing operational and diagnostic equipment in the overflow area.

Across Harris Health, approximately one in four patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Other compounding factors, such as a nursing shortage, pushed LBJ Hospital to declare an “ internal disaster” last week.

At one point, 130 people waited in the emergency room as the system neared full capacity. While no longer under a disaster situation, case rates remain high.

“We are almost right at the peak of our winter surge numbers and about two-thirds of the way to last year’s summer surge,” McLeod said.

Across Texas, hospitalizations have been increasing rapidly; on Saturday 9,462 people were hospitalized, an increase of 30 percent over the previous Saturday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. This weekend’s hospitalization figures were the highest Texas has seen since Feb. 6.

HELP DESK: What you need to know about the delta variant

The delta variant is thought to be more contagious than prior iterations of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Public health experts saw two months of rising case numbers before it peaked in Houston last year. This year, hospitals saw the case rates spike over a three-week period.

Only 42 beds are available in Houston’s trauma service area, less than half of the 96 open for patients last week, according to state data.

Most people who are hospitalized for COVID-19 are not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated. At Harris Health, none of the people who have died from complications of the virus were fully vaccinated, McLeod said.

gwendolyn.wu@chron.com
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