Hospitalizations escalating at same pace as highest COVID-19 peak, according to TMC leader

HOUSTON – COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Texas Medical Center are about to match where Houston has hit during previous peaks, like the second wave in June/July 2020.

President and CEO of TMC, Bill McKeon, said the hospitals might even hit new records, even though roughly half of the eligible Houstonians are vaccinated.

“What was so surprising is that right now we’re seeing, not the elderly coming into our hospitals, we are seeing young men and women in their 20s and 30s,” McKeon said. “As a matter fact, the average age when we studied it recently, it is 20 years younger than it used to be.”

The bigger internal crisis this time around isn’t a feared shortage of ventilators and PPE, but a major staffing shortage.

“They have beds,” he said, “The nursing shortage is really hitting us hard.”

McKeon explained the emotional toll 18 months working in a pandemic has done to hospital staff and compared it to going to war. They worked on the frontlines for so long with the expectation that vaccines would end the suffering, but when people passed on the vaccine, he described it as heartbreaking for many doctors and nurses.

Plus, he said, they can’t compete with some salaries that hard-hit states are starting to offer as incentives to recruit talented nurses.

Even worse, McKeon believes we haven’t seen the peak yet and predicts we will see 300+ patients hospitalized per day (mimicking some of the worst times of the pandemic) before it begins to taper off again.

“Half of the population is vaccinated and that’s great but that other half is now dealing with a virus that’s twice as infectious. [Delta] almost matches identically to where we were before when we didn’t have a vaccine,” McKeon said.

He said one of the worst parts for hospital leaders is they’re flying blind. In the past, people were testing more frequently so they could see when there was an increase in positivity. Then, hospitalizations normally followed, but now they don’t see it coming until patients fill the waiting room.

Here are the TMC metrics for Aug. 3.

key data trends:

  • The Effective Transmission Rate R(t) for the Greater Houston Area was 1.54 which indicates the virus spread is the same compared to last week’s daily average of 1.54
  • Yesterday, the COVID-19 testing positivity rate was 12.1% for TMC hospital systems which is 5.5% higher than last week’s daily average of 11.5%
  • The average test positivity rate last month was 3.1%, meaning last week’s positivity at TMC is 294.7% higher than last month’s daily average.
  • Yesterday, 1,957 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the Greater Houston Area which is a decrease of 14.77% compared to the last week’s daily average of 2,296 new cases per day.
  • The average daily new positive cases for last month were 133/day, meaning that today’s new positive COVID-19 cases are 1376.2% higher than last month’s daily average.
  • TMC admitted 269 new COVID-19 patients in TMC hospital institutions which has increased 9.2% compared to last week’s daily average of 246/day.
  • The average daily hospitalizations last month were 51/day, meaning that today’s new hospitalizations are 426.0% higher than last month’s daily average.
  • 2,090,233 doses have been administered by TMC institutions. Over the last week, an average of 1,487 doses per day have been administered.
  • 1,118,963 people have been fully vaccinated.