Base ICU beds occupied hits 90% as Houston area experiences largest daily surge in COVID cases since the pandemic began

About 90% of base ICU beds are occupied in Greater Houston after a daily case count surge. (Community Impact staff)
About 90% of base ICU beds are occupied in Greater Houston after a daily case count surge. (Community Impact staff)

About 90% of base ICU beds are occupied in Greater Houston after a daily case count surge. (Community Impact staff)

The Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council has reported over 2,500 new COVID-19 cases across 24 counties in the Greater Houston area June 23.

That is the highest single daily increase in COVID-19 cases in the area since the coronavirus pandemic hit the Houston area, according to SETRAC data that starts March 5; the second-highest came June 20, with 1,694 new cases.

Out of 2,202 available beds in intensive care units across the two dozen counties, 2,000 are in use—31.2% of them by COVID-19 patients—according to the SETRAC data.

Hospitals that serve as member institutions of Texas Medical Center make up a sizeable portion of that ICU capacity, at 1,298, though data collected by the medical center spans St. Luke’s, Harris Health System, Houston Methodist, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Hermann and Texas Children’s Hospital across nine counties, including Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller counties.

The medical center is reporting over 1,200 COVID patients in its hospitals, more than a 26% jump since June 18. On June 23 alone, TMC reported hospitalizing 242 patients, the highest daily tally since the medical center began reporting case count data.

The real concern is in ICU bed capacity, however, something the medical center noted specifically in a June 24 written statement by Texas Medical Center leadership.

“In light of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the Houston area, we would like to reassure the public that the Texas Medical Center stands ready to address this troubling surge,” the statement reads. “As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase at an alarming rate, however, ICU capacity is becoming increasingly stretched. If this trend continues, our hospital system capacity will become overwhelmed, leading us to make difficult choices of delaying much-needed non-COVID care to accommodate a greater number of COVID patients.”

As of June 23, 97% of the medical center’s 1,330 ICU beds are occupied, 70% by non-COVID patients, and 27% by COVID patients. It should be noted, however, that the medical center has plans in place for 373 additional beds in case of surge that are able to be maintained and an additional 504 temporary beds beyond that, which are not able to be maintained.

According to medical center projections, at the current rate of new ICU patients, the medical center will exceed its base capacity by June 25 and its sustainable surge capacity by July 6.

“We are therefore calling upon the people of Houston to do their part in helping us to slow the spread of this dangerous virus,” according to the medical center’s statement. “We urge our fellow citizens to first and foremost stay home when possible, maintain a social distance of at least six feet, wash hands regularly, utilize a face covering, and, if sick, get tested and self-quarantine.”
By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.


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