HOUSTON — The number of people going to the hospital with COVID-19 in the Houston area has increased roughly 30 percent in the last two weeks, according to doctors who work in the Texas Medical Center.
Dr. Luis Ostrosky, an infectious disease specialist with UTHealth and Memorial Hermann, said they expect the next peak of in the wave of hospitalizations will occur in mid-December, though he said it will likely not be as high as the peak in the summer.
“This number is very important because it really drives our outcomes in the possibility of surviving and getting over this disease," Dr. Ostrosky said.
Dr. Ostrosky does not believe the hospitals in the Medical Center are currently in danger of overwhelming our hospital bed capacity, but he said the more medical and surgical beds that need to be converted into ICU beds to care for critically ill patients, the more difficult it will be to provide optimal care.
“People do very well (being treated for COVID-19) when they get the standard of care, and outcomes start deteriorating when we go beyond that," Dr. Ostrosky said.
According to data from the Texas Medical Center, 299 out of the 1,117 COVID-19 patients in hospitals are in the ICU, meaning a little more than 1 in every 4 COVID-19 patients is critically ill.
Dr. Ostrosky expects that number will rise after people gathering for Thanksgiving, despite CDC warnings.
“You’re working in a hospital and seeing people very sick and having serious health issues, families devastated, and you’re driving back home and you’re seeing people at bars and restaurants and partying with no masks and it’s pretty demoralizing," Dr. Ostrosky said.
As of Saturday, 9.25 percent of hospital patients in the Houston area have COVID-19, according to data from Texas' Department of State Health Services. If that number goes above 15 percent for seven days or more, bars would close, and elective surgeries would be put on hold, like in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Thursday.
“People who deny COVID or don’t take it seriously don’t see death and sickness around them," Dr. Ostrosky said. “Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Dr. Ostrosky said the good news is that vaccines should arrive in time to inoculate health care workers and at-risk populations as cases are increasing.
“If there was ever a time to say the calvary’s coming, it’s this time," Dr. Ostrosky said.
He said the more than 48,000 doses of the vaccine headed for hospitals in Harris County will be distributed to as many people as possible, and the second dose will be administered during the next shipment.
He said people begin showing an antibody response to the vaccine in as little as seven days, and depending on which vaccine a person gets, they should receive the second dose between 21 to 28 days later.
That does not mean the general public can let its guard down and ignore our healthy habits as they wait for the vaccine to be widely available.