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UT researcher says hospitals should prepare for surge in the coming weeks

"I think from what we're seeing in the data, the pandemic is still on an increasing trend in Texas, so reopening will only add fuel to the fire," said Dr. Fox.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note, correction: Jeremy Barclay is the CEO of St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, so does the number of deaths and hospitalizations. 

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Travis County's death rate is the highest among the five largest counties in the state with 3.1%. 

"I think it's important for people to continue to realize that we're still in the midst of a pandemic," said Dr. Spencer Fox

Dr. Spencer Fox is part of the University of Texas COVID-19 modeling consortium team. He helped create the UT COVID-19 mortality projection model. 

As of Saturday, it's predicting that Austin-Travis County, Georgetown and Round Rock have a 71% chance that a peak in deaths will pass within the next two or three weeks. 

"There is quite a bit of uncertainty in how pandemic trajectory will look as businesses start to reopen, but I think it's very prudent based on the data we're seeing today for hospitals and health care facilities to prepare for surges in cases in the coming weeks," said Dr. Fox.

According to Travis County on Saturday, 98 patients were hospitalized in Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties, up from 88 on Wednesday.

"We don't know if the next few weeks we'll see a steady increase that will give hospitals time to steadily ramp up capacity as that comes, or we'll see a large surge from an exponentially growing epidemic that could be catastrophic for hospital capacity," he said.

In a press conference this week, Dr. Mark Escott said Austin Public Health will be using this data to determine how policies may change. 

"We know the disease is going to spread," said Dr. Escott. "We know COVID-19 is not going away, but what we need to make sure to prevent is overwhelming the health care system and its ability to care for people." 

He added, "We are on higher alert, and as that window opens the sudden risk of sudden increase increases and our hospitals are aware of that."

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The CEO of St. David's Round Rock Medical Center, Jeremy Barclay, said whether they see a spike in cases or not, they are ready.

"We are very, very fortunate, as I mentioned before, to have all of the PPE that we need to protect our staff, protect the visitors that are allowed to come in and certainly the patients," said Barclay. "We have plenty of capacity." 

Fox said how the community responds plays a big part in how large the possible surge could be. 

"I think it's important for people to continue to realize that we're still in the midst of a pandemic and that they individually can actually affect the course of this pandemic," said Fox.

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