DALLAS - A spike in COVID-19 cases has resulted in no pediatric ICU beds left in the North Texas region, hospital officials said Thursday.
The stunning announcement comes as health care providers are battling a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases, this time driven by the highly contagious delta variant, in people of all ages.
"We [have] no staffed pediatric ICU beds available in Trauma Service Area E," said Stephen Love, President/CEO, Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.
Officials said there are 73 confirmed COVID-19 pediatric patients hospitalized as of Thursday afternoon.
"Which is the highest level ever of pediatric COVID-19 patients we have ever treated," Love said. "We’ve got very talented and skilled people running these hospitals and I think they're going to do everything they can to surge and continue to care for the patients. It's just how big is the surge going to be?"
MORE: Coronavirus coverage
That figure is up 7% from Wednesday.
Health providers are also treating an "unusual number" of RSV cases right now, but no numbers were given on the number of patients in hospitals currently.
Officials said 94.5% of all pediatric in-patient bed space is occupied right now across the region.
Cook Children’s Medical Center said it currently has a high number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and RSV, in addition to other illnesses or injuries.
"Capacity is tight, but we are not sending patients to other hospitals at this time," a Cook Children's spokesperson said.
Overall, hospitalizations rose to nearly 2,700, which is up about 180 from Wednesday and about five times the number from just one month ago. They account for 18% of the area's hospital bed capacity.
New data from UT Southwestern shows that in DFW’s four main counties, there are more children and 18- to 49-year-olds being admitted to the hospital than ever before in this pandemic.
Hospitals, already pressed on staff and beds, are filling up.
Small, rural hospitals like Glen Rose Medical Center Southwest of Fort Worth typically immediately send patients that need more intense care to bigger hospitals. But recently, it’s taken more than a day.
"You’re kind of helpless," said Glen Rose Medical Center CEO Michael Honea. "Usually, you pick up the phone and call and somebody’s sent somewhere."
And that is playing out across the state and region.
"We've got reports from rural Texas hospitals that have called as many as 60 receiving hospitals in as many as six states and haven't been able to transfer a patient," said John Henderson with the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals. "And we're talking about both COVID and non-COVID patients. And the more time you wait, the worse your outcomes get."
Hospitals say this isn’t like the other surges. It’s something else altogether.
"Well, it's not a curve. It's a wall. It's actually we've spiked faster than prior surges," Henderson said. "We're actually at the level of hospitalizations statewide similar to the very first part of February and the end of January. So we've been at a similar place, but not this fast. And I worry the remainder of August is going to be pretty tough."
Many people are wondering when the reinforcements are coming.
State health officials say trauma services C, D and E, which encompasses North Texas, are getting 780 medical surge staff out of the 2,500 statewide on the way.
Staffing agencies are recruiting, but officials caution that takes time, especially when they are trying to recruit from outside the state since hospitals across Texas are stretched thin.