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Houston area doctors urge caution, but say they are better prepared for surge of COVID-19 patients

HOUSTON – The Houston area started seeing an uptick in hospitalization rates towards the end of May, prompting doctors in the Texas Medical center to again urge the public to take health precautions.

“We’re living with the virus, we’re going to be living with the virus, it’s still dangerous, it’s growing,” said senior vice president and dean of clinical affairs for Baylor College of Medicine, James McDeavitt.

McDeavitt said that statement is not meant to be ominous, just realistic.

“That means we mask, that means we maintain social distancing, and if we’re sick that means we don’t go to work,” McDeavitt said.

Houston Health Authority, Dr, David Persse believes the uptick is due to people relaxing social distancing and other preventative measures.

“Generally about two weeks after an event you start seeing these things showing up in the hospitalization numbers,” Persse said. “This is the re-opening, this is Mother’s Day, this is Memorial Day, this is all of those things coming together.”

Persse did say the uptick in hospitalization rates is making him “anxious,” because he’s not sure if we are at the beginning, middle or end of a wave.

“We’ll have to wait and see to find out,” Persse said.

McDeavitt, however, said a big difference now is hospital systems are better prepared. Contingency plans to increase bed and ICU space are in place and doctors are armed with treatment options that weren’t around in March and April.

“We have a degree of confidence now that if our current surge continues and becomes a problem we’re in far better shape to meet that surge,” McDeavitt said. “It’s no longer a scary unknown virus for which we can do nothing.”

Medical Director of Emergency Services at Memorial-Hermann hospital and associate professor of Emergency Medicine of UT Health’s McGovern Medical school, Dr. Samuel Prater said lot work that went into preparing for the virus to hit the United States is now paying off.

“That kind of stuff that we did in the very beginning really prepared us well to be able to respond quickly,” said Prater.

Prater echoes his colleague’s calls for continued precautions went it comes to this virus. He said so far the increase has been steady, with no sudden or prolonged spikes. He did point out the Memorial-Hermann system had 170 COVID-19 patients at the beginning of June.

“Just yesterday we were at 270 patients across our system and that’s just climbing every day,” Prater said.

Medical Center data also shows a good supply of personal protection equipment is on-hand for the various hospital system. McDeavitt also said protection protocols for staff have helped relieve anxiety over healthcare workers becoming infected and bringing the virus to their homes.

“You can come to work and not be afraid of getting infected yourself,” McDeavitt said.