Concerns grow after local hospitals see spike in COVID-19 cases

HOUSTON – As Texas reopens, the state is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases as many medical professionals predicted.

The caseload hasn’t begun to seriously strain Houston’s local medical system, but keeping it that way is a delicate balance.

Huge crowds turned out for Memorial Day Weekend and 60,000 people marched in protest downtown just last week. The perfect environment for spreading the virus. And that’s starting to show up at hospital admission desks.

Darrell Pile runs the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, the nonprofit agency that keeps up with hospital admissions in Harris and 8 surrounding counties. Pile said there’s been a tremendous increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 in the last 5 days.

“At that time, we had 194 COVID-19 patients in our hospitals. And as of Monday of this week, it jumped to 426,” Pile said.

The spike is not a surprise but it is concerning. At the United Memorial Medical Center’s COVID-19 ward, beds are filling up fast.

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“Over the last two weeks, we have admitted more patients than over the last 10 weeks together,” said Dr. Joseph Varon, Chief of Medicine at UMMC.

Testing and tracking cases are now more important than ever to control the spread of the virus, he said.

“COVID-19 is still here it’s not going away. When you have mass congregations of people in the middle of a pandemic you’re going to have more patients,” Varon said.

For now, the medical system can handle the extra caseload. Darrell Pile said the 10,000 hospital beds currently available in the nine-county region could quickly be expanded to 24,000. But it’s still a delicate balance.

“We’re still in the green zone,” Varon said. “but like I said with all of these mass gatherings that we had that can change from one day to the other.

The best defense remains social distancing, face masks and the knowledge that anytime people gather, the virus is likely there too.