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Brazos County health officials: High hospital occupancy rate doesn't mean needs aren't being met

Instead, health officials stressed the need for urgency among the public. Wear your mask, social distance and practice good hygiene.

BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — The Brazos County Health District came out with some numbers Thursday that can be described at first as frightening. While the 105 new known cases of COVID-19 are not a surprise as we've seen several days with triple digits lately, it's the hospital occupancy rate.

More specifically, the ICU hospital capacity rate in Brazos County. We're currently at 104%, the highest we've seen since the pandemic started. While it seems that we heard so much about COVID-19 that we've almost grown numb to the numbers, hearing that percentage without understanding the specifics can seem scary.

So, should we be freaking out?

"There's no reason to get frightened," said Dr. Lon Young, who is the chief medical officer for CapRock Health in College Station. But, not getting frightened doesn't mean you should shrug it off. "This is as bad as it's been in our community."

Dr. Young said he knows people are tired of hearing about COVID-19, but with local ICU beds over capacity, he said the urgency should really be among the people and practicing CDC guidelines with COVID to the letter.

"We do not have spare capacity at this time to continue to meet the needs of an ever-growing burden of disease," Dr. Young said. "We do have plans in place to increase our capacity to a point."

Dr. Young said if Brazos County exceeds local capacity even in their Crisis Expansion Scenarios, officials will start reaching out to the State of Texas for more equipment and personnel. They would also ask for help from surrounding communities like Houston, Austin and beyond.

"We prefer not to get into those scenarios, because it's certainly not as comfortable for patients," said Dr. Young. "It's more taxing for members of our health care community."

Baylor Scott & White told KAGS News that its been preparing to address scenarios just like this for months. "Our hospitalization rate, including the number of patients being treated in our intensive care unit is higher today than it has been at any other point in the pandemic," according to Megan Hoffman, who is the hospital's public relations manager. "We have enacted the first phase of our surge plans to accommodate patients who are in need of intensive care."

While these health care officials are working to calm fears, again, they don't want the urgency to keep the numbers under control to be forgotten. Keeping those numbers controlled starts with every resident of Brazos County.

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"Please, stay away from each other. Focus on keeping the disease burden in our community down," said Dr. Young. "If we don't do that, some of our family members and community members are going to be in a bad position."

Hoffman agreed. "We ask that the public embrace a sense of urgency in following the recommended guidelines of physical distancing, masking and practicing good hand hygiene as we approach the New Year," she said in a statement released to KAGS. "We know these safety measures can be difficult, but they are proven measures to stop the spread of the virus."