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Houston's COVID-19 hospitalizations reach summer surge levels

The fear is, if things don’t change, hospitals will be overwhelmed in the next few weeks.

HOUSTON — The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Houston is as high now as it has been throughout the pandemic, according to hospital officials in the Texas Medical Center.

Kevin McFarlane is President of the Houston Emergency Nurses Association.

“We’re seeing the emergency departments are full. They’re busy. They’re working hard to get patients upstairs into the hospital. The hospitals are nearing capacity,” McFarlane said.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been rising since before the holidays. For the first time in weeks, Harris County’s positivity rate dropped slightly from 20.3% to 19.4%. That positivity rate is still much higher than health officials would like.

Memorial Hermann Hospital CEO Dr. David Callender said it's too soon to know if the slight decline is a sign of a downward trend.

“To me, that’s wishful thinking based on what I’m looking at,” he said. “I’m quite concerned about where we’re going to be two weeks from now. We’re very busy. We’ve stopped doing elective cases. Even those that are semi-elective that are somewhat urgent now are being placed on hold.”

According to TMC’s coronavirus dashboard, hospitals have already expanded intensive care units to phase 2 surge capacity. Even those beds are 89% full. The fear is, if things don’t change, hospitals will be overwhelmed in the next few weeks.

“Don’t let your guard down. We got to keep vigilant on this. We have to get this together. Vaccinate when you can,” McFarlane said.

Health officials say the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the keys to life getting back to normal, but it won’t help with the rise of hospitalizations and deaths happening right now.

What will help is slowing the spread of the virus in the community by wearing masks, washing your hands and social distancing.