Houston area hospitals are being bombarded with a surge of COVID-19 patients. On Tuesday, the Houston region hit seven straight days where more than 15% of hospital capacity is filled with COVID patients.
That threshold now triggers automatic rollbacks to reopening, and hospitals are taking steps to try and handle the spike in hospitalizations.
"We're feeling this everywhere," said Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann Hospital. "It's not just my facility, it's all around the city."
Yancey is seeing a surge in COVID-19 patients everyday.
"It's feeling like it did back in July," said Yancey.
July was the worst month of Houston's pandemic with 1,200 COVID-19 deaths that month. But officials at Houston Methodist say they'll surpass those hospitalization levels by the end of the week.
"The emergency rooms are filled, just filled and have people waiting to come into them COVID-19," said Roberta Schwartz, executive vice-president of Houston Methodist.
Right now nearly 700 COVID-19 patients are in Methodist hospitals across the system. At the Medical Center campus, they have a record high 10 dedicated COVID units. And Schwartz says seven straight days of increased hospitalizations could only be the beginning.
"Unfortunately we don't think we'll crest anytime soon," said Schwartz. "We do believe the crest is a number of weeks out."
It's why hospitals like Houston Methodist are taking steps to prepare. They're turning more units to COVID units, relying on a corporate labor pool to assist clinical staff with the surge, changing surgery schedules and prior PPE protocols are back in place to ensure they don't run out.
"I am seeing reusable gowns on the floors again," said Schwartz. "We haven't had that in months, they're back now so we can sustain this through this next surge."
Schwartz is hopeful the Governor's automatic rollback closing bars, reducing capacity restaurant and business capacity from 75% to 50% and cancelling elective surgeries will send a message to the public how serious the situation is.
Vaccines won't make this surge stop. They're asking people to mask up and stay apart.
"We need people's help right now to do things that are very responsible," said Schwartz. "We do need people as much as they can to go back to a place where they hunkered down at home with their immediate family."