Number of COVID-19 patients in Harris County hospitals has doubled since Thanksgiving

The number of COVID-19 patients in Harris County hospitals hit 2,040 on Jan. 4, including 1,538 patients in general ward beds and 502 patients in intensive care unit beds. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
The number of COVID-19 patients in Harris County hospitals hit 2,040 on Jan. 4, including 1,538 patients in general ward beds and 502 patients in intensive care unit beds. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

The number of COVID-19 patients in Harris County hospitals hit 2,040 on Jan. 4, including 1,538 patients in general ward beds and 502 patients in intensive care unit beds. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

The number of COVID-19 patients in Harris County hospitals hit 2,040 on Jan. 4, including 1,538 patients in general ward beds and 502 patients in intensive care unit beds, according to the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council.

That total is the highest since late July, a point at which the patient count was in decline after hitting a peak of more than 2,500 in mid-July, according to SETRAC data. The count of 2,040 is slightly more than double the total count on Thanksgiving Day, which was 1,004, including 690 in general wards and 314 in ICUs.


Roughly 23% of all patients in Harris County hospitals have COVID-19, according to SETRAC. In ICUs, about 32.2% of patients have COVID-19, which is up from 20.3% on Thanksgiving Day.

The Texas Medical Center's base ICU capacity of 1,330 beds remains fully occupied as of Jan. 3, and around 800 beds remain in surge capacity.

Meanwhile, the 14-day average for testing positivity in Harris County has risen by about five percentage points since Thanksgiving, hitting 14.9% as of the most recent data Dec. 28. Testing positivity is even higher in the TMC at 16.2% as of Jan. 2. Public health officials said the testing positivity rate needs to stay below 5% for two consecutive weeks to demonstrate community control of the virus.

Although the positivity rate is rising, the rate at which it is increasing appears to be slower than the spikes that took place after Memorial Day in 2020. The average testing positivity rate went from 10.1% on June 1 to 24.9% on July 1, which compares to a rise from 9.2% on Nov. 28 to 14.9% on Dec. 28.

The total number of new cases confirmed per day also continues to rise, with the seven day average at more than 2,000 new cases per day. Another 1,907 new cases were confirmed in Harris County on Jan. 4, which included 899 in the city of Houston and 1,008 in Harris County outside of the city. The death toll rose to 2,658, up from 2,606 on Dec. 26.


As vaccine distribution continues for eligible patients in Houston and Harris County, officials are urging residents to follow safety precautions, including practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings and frequently washing hands.

By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.