AUSTIN, Texas - Hospitals in Austin are seeing more people coming in with the COVID virus.
Tuesday morning, in his briefing before the Travis County Commission, Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said some of those new patients are not local residents. "It’s important to note that our hospitals locally have received a number of patents, 13 patients from other jurisdictions, primarily El Paso, and also other jurisdictions in West Texas and other parts of the state because they are COVID positive. We have also seen patients transferred here for other health care needs because there is no capacity for any patients in the ICU,” said Dr. Escott.
Escott warned, more patients from other Texas metro areas are expected to be hospitalized in Austin. That's because beds are available, even though, currently, the 7 day average of new COVID hospitalizations in Austin is at 30.
That's more than double the rate recorded in early October.
Austin painter, Antonio Aguilar knows what it is like to be in the hospital with COVID. Earlier this year, he spent 38 agonizing days hospitalized. "It’s like between life and death, it’s too difficult, I don’t know how to describe; horrible."
Aguilar understands local hospital resources could be stretched by admitting people from other regions of the state, but he also understands why the transfers are necessary.
"Yeah, like right now it’s an emergency, so maybe I think it is fine for now, I don’t know in the future, it’s like too much, they need to do different places or whatever … I think bring them in so they can survive,” said Aguilar.
A graph of the COVID surge in El Paso was reviewed by Travis County Commissioners and showed how the West Texas spike started earlier this fall. It towers over all of the COVID rates in major Texas metro areas.
State data shows that as of Tuesday, El Paso had 34,487 active COVID-19 cases. That number is almost as many cases as the Austin metro area has had since the outbreak began.
"What we are trying to prevent is this El Paso pattern from happening here, if we were to let this go, to this extent we are talking about needing more than 600 ICU beds and more than 2400 hospital beds which is about triple of what we think we actually have,” said Escott.
COVID cases in Austin are expected to level off over the next few days. But after Thanksgiving, models are predicting a surge which is why health officials say you should cancel taking your trip. "This is a problem for us, if we don’t reign this in quickly Christmas is going to be very bleak in terms of our surge, but we have time, we have time to intervene,” said Escott.
If there is not a decrease in cases, Escott warned restrictions could soon be tightened.