Fueled by the delta variant, a surge in Houston COVID-19 hospitalizations is growing as fast as at any time during the pandemic so far, and is projected to pass previous records by mid-August — even though roughly half of all eligible Houstonians are fully vaccinated.
“We’re heading into dark times,” said Texas Medical Center CEO Bill McKeon. Already, he said, “our ICUs are filled with unvaccinated people.”
On Tuesday, Texas Medical Center hospitals listed 1,372 people in intensive care — more than the number of regular ICU beds. The hospitals are now in Phase II of the medical center’s surge plan, opening unused wards to accommodate the gravely ill patients expected to need them.
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 7,305 people were hospitalized statewide for COVID-19 as of Tuesday — more than four times as many as on July 1, and a 38 percent increase over last Tuesday’s figure.
Estimates by the UT-Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium suggest that all regions across Texas will face surges larger than anything seen so far.
In the Houston area, the previous record for COVID hospitalizations was 2,927 people on Jan. 8. The consortium’s latest model predicts that record will be broken Aug. 8. The previous record for ICU patients — 947, set July 18, 2020 — is predicted to be broken Aug. 15.
Even more alarmingly, the surge isn’t predicted to level off there, but to keep climbing sharply. By the end of August, the consortium forecasts that roughly 2,000 people will be in Houston ICUs — double the previous high. [Continue reading…]
In March, with the number of new coronavirus cases plummeting in Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson let expire the statewide mask mandate that some of his fellow Republicans had opposed from the beginning.
Soon thereafter, Mr. Hutchinson went a step further, signing legislation that blocked most government entities in the state from instituting any future mask mandates.
The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Trent Garner, would later write on Twitter that it was “one of the most important laws we passed.”
“The left wants more control over YOU and your children’s lives,” he continued. “Masking is now about power, not public safety.”
Mr. Hutchinson, a relatively moderate Republican, did not see much harm in it at the time. “Our cases were at a very low point,” he recalled in a news conference on Tuesday. However, he added, “In hindsight, I wish that it had not become law.”
In recent days, as coronavirus cases fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant have skyrocketed in Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson has backtracked, and is now urging state legislators to undo part of the law so school districts may adopt mask mandates before students return to their classrooms en masse. [Continue reading…]