Doctors say ‘second guessing’ from patients, families becoming more common during COVID treatment
The same questions are becoming more frequent, “Why didn’t you do this? Why didn’t you do that? Why didn’t you do this? I saw on TV that this is good,” said Dr. Joseph Varon of United Memorial Medical Center in North Houston.
Doctors believe in order to properly track breakthrough cases, changes will be needed from CDC
The Texas Department of State Health Services said there have been “343 clinically severe vaccine breakthrough cases reported in Texas,” dating back to Feb. 8, 2020, the date the state of Texas started tracking them.
COVID 411 With Dr. Richina Bicette And Dr. Joseph Varone – Houston Public Media
Medical experts answer listeners’ COVID questions, and we take a closer look at what’s happening at one local hospital from a doctor who's been on the cutting edge of COVID treatments since the beginning of the pandemic.houstonpublicmedia.org
‘Nobody’s coming to get them’: Health officials say vaccines are going to waste as COVID hospitalizations continue to rise
It’s been two weeks since July 4, and typically with COVID, two to three weeks after people gather for celebrations marks the time that the virus increases, and it’s proving to be true again.
Dr. Joseph Varon works 366th consecutive day amid pandemic
HOUSTON – Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Joseph Varon has become a leading national voice in the fight against the deadly virus. On Saturday, Varon worked his 366th consecutive day at United Memorial Medical Center in North Houston, and he said the pandemic is far from over. Dozens of people from Solid Rock Ministries thanked Dr. Varon and other healthcare workers for their hard work and sacrifice on Saturday. “It was pretty scary, once you can’t breathe and you have double pneumonia that’s really scary,” Hernandez said. Varon said once things get a little better, he plans to take a trip to the beach and get some much-needed sleep.
Houston reaches grim milestone of 2,000 COVID-19 deaths
FILE - Dr. Joseph Varon hugs and comforts a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) during Thanksgiving at the United Memorial Medical Center on November 26, 2020 in Houston, Texas. HOUSTON – The city of Houston reached a grim milestone of the weekend. Officials said the death toll for COVID-19 has crossed 2,000 people, only a few days after the one-year anniversary of the first Houston-area COVID-19 case. In addition, he reported nearly 500 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Sunday. Turner did thank business owners and customers that have continued to wear masks, social distance and practice other COVID-19 safety precautions.
Local leaders, doctors concerned about ‘mask off’ party planned at Washington Avenue bar
HOUSTON – State and local leaders, along with health care workers, will gather Sunday to condemn and demand a “Mask Off” party at a local nightclub located on Washington Avenue be canceled. AdLocal leaders and health experts condemn a “Mask Off” party at a local nightclub located on Washington Avenue. Max Levy said he wouldn’t be attending but believed the nightclub had a right to do what they wanted. “I do believe it’s the personal businesses right to decide for themselves what dress code they want to enforce whether that’s a mask or no mask,” Levy said. He said he understands COVID fatigue is real but believes we have come too far not to be responsible.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Lifted COVID-19 Restrictions. Houston Health Workers Are Frustrated – Houston Public Media
Greg Abbott announced he was lifting COVID-19 restrictions — including a mask mandate — and student volunteers from the College of Nursing were concerned. And she questioned its timing, so soon after a winter storm that left millions of Texans without electricity, heat and water. Abbott's decision this week has left Houston health workers frustrated and scrambling to come up with a plan to treat what they expect to be another surge in coronavirus patients. Palomeque, who works with the sickest patients in the ICU, said she too wants Texas to reopen and rebuild its economy. Subscribe to Today in Houston Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.houstonpublicmedia.org
Local doctor warns that virus will spike if masks not mandatory
Abbott’s decision to open up the state, making face masks no longer mandatory, is the wrong move at the wrong time, according to Dr. Varon. At his United Memorial Medical Center in north Houston, Dr. Varon worked battling COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Dr. Varon said everyone should keep wearing masks because they work. Now, Dr. Varon and his staff are preparing for another surge that he says will likely come as a result of the governor’s order. Dr Varon says in the short term, people should continue wearing masks and social distancing to stay safe.
United Memorial Medical Center in Houston set to receive 2,340 doses of COVID-19 vaccine
HOUSTON – With the winter weather gone, now, the focus for health officials returns to COVID-19 vaccines. United Memorial Medical Center in Houston is set to receive 2,340 doses this week. The hospital has set aside a special wing to administer the vaccine, he said. The delayed doses are now expected to arrive in the first half of this week. On Monday, Houston and Harris County leaders explained plans for a FEMA-supported mass vaccination site at NRG Park.
Foreign nationals traveling to Houston and other cities to get vaccinated
HOUSTON – Oren Murphy is a former minesweeper for the U.S. Navy and 60 years later, he is navigating the deadly challenge of COVID-19. KPRC 2 Investigates discovered foreign nationals who have traveled to Houston and elsewhere are getting vaccinated. Dr. Joseph Varon of United Memorial Medical Center says he first heard of foreign nationals receiving vaccines intended for Texans here in Houston at the end of last month. Following a roundtable meeting with public officials on Tuesday, we asked Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom about foreign nationals out of the county on hospital databases who are receiving vaccines. Back home in Houston, Boom told KPRC 2 Investigates, “There have been 60,000 people vaccinated.
What it’s like to go through a drive-thru coronavirus vaccine clinic
HOUSTON – On the second day of drive-thru vaccinations at NRG Park, KPRC 2 Investigates got an inside look at the lifesaving process. Arthur Broussard was able to get the vaccine during the Memorial Hermann clinic. “The fact that we are making it easy by having drive-thru facilities, it is likely to bring more people to get vaccinated,” Varon said. RELATED READ: About 14,500 people vaccinated during Memorial Hermann’s drive-thru clinicVaron understands logistics with drive-thru operations. Varon also admitted that the characteristics and demands of a drive-thru site make the process more challenging.
Houston-area officially crosses hospitalization threshold that triggers reopening rollbacks
HOUSTON – The Houston area officially crossed Tuesday the hospitalization threshold that triggers a rollback in reopenings for the area, and the state has sent letters to county judges informing them of the requirement. Greg Abbott’s reopening order that requires, among other things, bars to close and restaurants to reduce capacity to 50%. ‘Wake-up call’Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she expected Tuesday’s numbers to push the region over the threshold. Pamela Hillhouse, who owns Mel’s Place on Airline Drive, said she had to use more money to get a license and products to serve food. Stella Birchfield, the head bartender at Mel’s Place, said she chose to retire from her other work and spent years working at the bar, taking care of regular patrons.
Houston doctor urges people with COVID-19 not to replace health care with self-care
“I did ask the urgent care doctor what I should be doing, and she said well, ‘Rest and ride it out,’” Parks said. So Parks decided to try self-care at home after doing science-backed research and seeking advice from friends with a medical background. She said while she believes boosting her immune system at home helped in her recovery it doesn’t replace health care. Dr. Joseph Varon, chief medical officer with United Memorial Medical Center, said taking vitamins D and C are great to take daily to help boost immunity. Varon said the best way to avoid COVID-19 is to follow the advice medical professionals have been preaching for months.
Houston hospital offers workers $500 to get COVID-19 vaccine
Houston Methodist's 26,000 workers can look forward to some extra cash in March — as long as they get a COVID-19 vaccine. Eligibility criteria to receive the award include getting a COVID-19 vaccination, "fulfilling our obligation as health care workers to lead the community," he stated. Houston Methodist also gave employees $500 bonuses about six weeks ago for their work during the pandemic, which has killed nearly 35,000 Americans. For now, vaccination isn't required for Houston Methodist employees, but "will be eventually" for most workers, Boom wrote. "I think people are more wanting it than not wanting it," said a spokesperson for Houston Methodist, who received her second dose of the vaccine on Monday.cbsnews.com
‘Please stay home’: Houston doctor issues plea as hospital fills up ahead of new year
HOUSTON – A Houston doctor whose hospital is packed with coronavirus patients is pleading with people to stay home to ring in the new year. The drive-thru testing site at the United Memorial Medical Center in northwest Houston was busy Tuesday, but it’s the situation inside the hospital that has Dr. Joseph Varon concerned. “It’s not going anywhere, and the fact is that we are getting people that are deadly ill in the hospital. If you can avoid going out this New Year’s, please stay home.”Dr. Joseph Varon has been working 287 consecutive days since the pandemic started. For those hoping for a better 2021, Dr. Varon says this message is simple.
Houston Methodist will soon start notifying patients to set up vaccine appointments
HOUSTON – Houston area hospitals and clinics that offer COVID-19 vaccinations are currently evaluating how to prioritize patients who qualify to receive a vaccine under Phase 1B of the state’s rollout. “Phase 1B can be interpreted differently by different people. Houston Methodist said Thursday certain patients will soon start getting notifications to schedule appointments for their coronavirus shot. Officials said they will soon start notifying patients via a text message in the following order:Patients who are 75 or older. On Wednesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services said vaccine providers can begin administering the vaccine to people in Phase 1B.
At Houston Hospital, Head Of COVID-19 Unit Sees Some Staff Wary Of A Vaccine – Houston Public Media
Dr. Joseph Varon of Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center senses distrust for a vaccine among some hospital staff. These days, due to a post-Thanksgiving surge, he says, at least a half-dozen critically ill patients are admitted daily to his COVID-19 unit. According to the Pew Research Center, skepticism in a COVID-19 vaccine is highest among African Americans. But inside his hospital, Varon said, the COVID-19 vaccine has become a political point for some. With respect to the general community and the vaccine, Varon said there is a misconception that emergency authorization means public health has already improved.houstonpublicmedia.org
FDA could authorize Pfizer's Covid vaccine this week as U.S. deaths surge
The Food and Drug Administration could authorize a coronavirus vaccine as early as the end of this week. The move would be a pivotal moment in the pandemic, as public health officials say the U.S. is likely to face its worst public health crisis in history this winter. James Hildreth, a member of the committee, told NBC's "Weekend Today" on Saturday that an authorization could come as early as Friday. Emergency use authorization means the FDA will allow some adults to receive the vaccine as the agency continues to evaluate data. "This is not just the worst public health event.cnbc.com
All of your COVID testing questions answered
HOUSTON – Doctors and government leaders are urging us to get tested for COVID-19 even if we don’t have any symptoms. He answered our questions about which tests are best to detect the virus. A: Varon said rapid tests, even if taken with a nasal swab, have proven to be inaccurate about 20% of the time. Rapid Nasal Swab TestAverage 20% false-negative readingsUsually $150 & upResults come back in as little as 15 minutesSaliva and mouth swab testsAverage 30% chance of false-negative readings. A: It could be because you were given other tests in addition to the COVID test.
Local doctor says people should quarantine, get tested after traveling for Thanksgiving
Dr. Joseph Varon has been working nonstop at The United Medical Hospital for 255 days. He said he and his staff are busy and tired, but they’re treating COVID-19 patients around the clock. Now they’re getting prepared for what Thanksgiving and Black Friday could bring. Varon said people need to quarantine for five days and get tested if they traveled for Thanksgiving and were around large crowds on Black Friday. Varon was seen in a heartbreaking photo comforting a patient in the coronavirus intensive care unit on Thanksgiving is going viral.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner responds to Thanksgiving weekend curfew orders in Texas
HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has issued a statement following the curfews issued in Bexar County and in San Antonio. The efforts are due to fears that the Thanksgiving weekend will end in a huge spike of COVID-19 cases, KSAT reported. At this present time, my primary concern is all the contacts that occurred yesterday during Thanksgiving and everything that happened today during Black Friday where everyone is out there shopping,” Dr. Varon said. Dr. Varon says our focus needs to be on educating others about the deadly virus. The establishments may continue to offer drive-thru, curbside or takeout service after 10 p.m. and resume dine-in service at 6 a.m. during the curfew period.
Local doctor warns against holiday travel, crowded gatherings as COVID-19 cases rise
HOUSTON – As coronavirus continues to make top headlines in Texas and across the country, doctors say many people are becoming fatigued. It will stab you in the back,” said Dr. Joseph Varon, the Chief of Medicine at United Memorial Medical Center. “For me, the next six weeks are probably going to be the darkest times in the city of Houston. Unless we keep our social distance, wear our mask and wash our hands and avoid going to large crowded places,” he said. Varon says he’s prepared to open two additional wards at the facility to prepare for the weeks after Thanksgiving.
5 things for Houstonians to know for Wednesday, Oct. 14
Here are things to know for Wednesday, Oct. 14:1. ‘They’re threatening to kill me and my kids:’ Houston woman seen kicking dog in viral video tells her side of storyThe Houston woman seen in a viral video kicking and punching a yelping dog said the dog, which is not hers, had just attacked her 5-year-old son. Harris County sets record for turnout on first day of early votingVoters in Harris County shattered records for turnout Tuesday on the first day of early voting. The record for highest day turnout during early voting was broken after 4 p.m. when the number passed the 100,000 mark. The previous record of 100,005 was set in 2016 on the last day of early voting.
Baby Nick dies at home hours after being released from Texas Children’s Hospital
HOUSTON – After a long legal battle to keep him on life support, 10-month-old Nick Torres died at home Tuesday after being released from the hospital to his family. Dr. Joseph Varon, of United Memorial Medical Center, said he helped transport Nick from the hospital to his home, where he died a couple of hours later. He said it was a very emotional moment for not only Nick’s family but the medical staff who were attending to him. After several appeals to the courts, judges ruled that the hospital could remove Nick from life support. Over the weekend, the family’s attorney said that the hospital had agreed to release Nick into the family’s care.
Updated CDC quarantine recommendation suggests COVID-19 recoverees are protected for 3 months
I never want to experience that again, said Martin Rogers, a COVID-19 survivor from Missouri City. Martin Rogers and his wife Alice both got COVOD-19 in early July. "The congestion, the loss of taste," Martin Rogers listed. And a migraine that was hellacious, Martin Rogers said. I never want to get this again, Martin Rogers said.
Houston-area doctor agrees with use of controversial drug to treat COVID-19
Dr. Immanuel passionately touted the positives she says she has seen surrounding the drug hydroxychloroquine. “We see patients day one. It is a cure,” she said,Dr. Joseph Varon is another Houston doctor that believes in the controversial drug, hydroxychloroquine. “I use it for every patient,” said Dr. Varone at his north Houston medical facility, United Memorial Medical Center. “It is a drug that has been politicized up the wazoo,” said Dr. Varon.
Family-run circus in north Houston welcomes back guests after shutting down amid pandemic
HOUSTON Circo Hermanos Vazquez reopened in north Houston after being shut down for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The family-run operation said they worked with the Houston Health Department and the Houston Fire Marshals Office to make sure they had the proper health precautions in place. Situated off Interstate 45 near Tidwell Road, the Circo Hermanos Vazquez family circus is in town for their 50th anniversary. The Vazquez family started the tour in February, temporarily shut down amid the pandemic, and then reopened in June. But when hearing about the circus in town, one local medical professional raised concerns.
TRUST INDEX: Can you get COVID-19 twice?
COVID-19 againWe introduced you to Adam Stadler and his wife Audrey in May while discussing the lingering effects of COVID-19. Adam first contracted COVID-19 at the end of March and was eventually treated at United Memorial Medical Center. “The fact that you have corona does not preclude you from getting in trouble again.”Can you get COVID-19 twice? We put Sen. Paul’s claim to the KPRC 2 Trust Index. Since there are still no scientific conclusions regarding a person’s immunity to COVID-19 once recovered, KPRC 2 is marking his statements yellow — be careful with this one.
With shortage of medical professionals in Houston area, officials warn patient care may suffer
More than 850 COVID-19 patients are in ICU beds, which is 45% of the ICU availability. He said the shortage has resulted in long wait times at his hospital for sometimes desperately ill patients who need beds. I have patients waiting a long time to get into the emergency room. Ive had patients waiting in her cars to get into the emergency room because the emergency room is packed, he said. On Tuesday, 273 patients were waiting for beds while 41 of them were waiting for ICU beds, according to SETRAC.
For many COVID-19 patients, ‘recovered’ doesn’t mean the fight is over
How many positive COVID-19 cases there are, how many people have died and how many have recovered. But for many patients that are in the “recovered” category, the battle still rages long after the virus is gone. During her initial hospitalization, she suffered cardiac arrest, a collapsed lung, an intestinal virus separate from COVID-19, and required temporary dialysis. ‘You’re not done’Sheldon Weisfeld knows “recovered” doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. “You see, people think you’re COVID-negative and that you’re done,” he said.
Army deploys medical unit to Houston in help to fight COVID-19
HOUSTON – The U.S. Army came to Houston Tuesday to prepare for the opening of a new COVID-19 wing at the United Memorial Medical Center, which is staffed entirely by Army personnel. The hospital is currently treating about 40 COVID-19 patients and has another 20 beds available, but not enough doctors and nurses to man them. “They’re bringing new physicians, they’re bringing a lot of nurses, bringing medics. What we need to provide better service to our patients.”The unit is the Army’s Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force. Anyone who thinks we’re at the end of it,” said Congresswoman Shelia Jackson LeeThe Army medics plan to begin treating patients Thursday.
Window into virus surge: Death, recovery at Houston hospital
In all, Texas has recorded more than 2,670 deaths and more than 200,000 confirmed cases of the virus. People need to see this so they can understand and wont do stupid things, he said, standing in the widows hospital room. The widow entered the hospital in late June about a week after the funeral for her husband, who died from liver cancer. Around 10 a.m. Monday, the widow's oxygen levels fell dangerously. Texas leaders say there are still 12,000 available hospital beds statewide about 23% of total beds.
As COVID-19 cases climb, city and county leaders seek to increase testing sites
HOUSTON – Houston and surrounding counties are moving to increase testing capacity as the COVID-19 infection rate continues to climb. On Monday, Fort Bend County opened its fifth COVID-19 testing site at 9 a.m. at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Rosenberg. Within an hour, the free testing site had reached its 100 clients daily capacity. The city of Houston’s two, free, drive-through test sites at Butler and Delmar stadiums can perform a combined 1,000 tests daily. “Starting tomorrow, we will be increasing the testing capability capacity at both sites, Delmar and Butler, to 650 per site,” Turner said.
Medical officials warn of staffing shortage as COVID-19 cases, hospitalization rise in Houston
HOUSTON As Governor Greg Abbott announces another record-breaking day in new cases of coronavirus, medical professionals are asking for the publics help in flattening the curve. Local medical professionals are concerned with the lack of personnel to treat sick patients. As cases soar statewide, and in the Greater Houston area, there is intense pressure on the medical systemas doctors, nurses and volunteers struggle to keep up with demand. United Memorial Medical Center has tested more than 80,000 people in the last 97 days. However, Varon and other medical professionals are asking for the publics cooperation.
Local doctors have opposing take on using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients
HOUSTON – The Food and Drug Administration has revoked its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus. At Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, dozens of COVID-19 patients have taken the drug, according to Dr. Joseph Varon, chief medical officer. “Hydroxychloroquine works,” Dr. Varon said. Dr. Varon believes the treatment is effective, as long as it’s given early to patients and they’re closely monitored in the hospital. By day four or day five, they really do better,” said Dr. Varon.
Local hospitals seeing 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 hasnt begun to seriously strain Houstons local medical system, but keeping it that way is a delicate balance. Pile said theres 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. When you have mass congregations of people in the middle of a pandemic youre going to have more patients Varon said.
Behind the story: How we reported from a COVID-19 unit
We set out to cover a COVID-19 unit the same way we have reported from war zones: by planning our entry and exit strategy. The L.A. Times had already trained us and provided protective masks, disposable coveralls made of Tyvek, gloves and shoe covers. In them were extra shoes so we could bag the pairs we wore in the COVID unit before we returned home. Araiza took our pictures, which would hang over our protective suits so patients could see what we looked like under all the protective gear. One at a time, we unzipped the chamber at the entrance of the COVID unit and entered.latimes.com
'Make them smile’: Houston doctor gives hope, humor while treating coronavirus patients
If I have someone who loses hope, I don’t care how many medications I give him, they’re going to go. So my goal is to avoid losing people to this coronavirus anyway we can,” Dr. Varon said. Make your patients smile. they’re going through hell right now. They think they are going to die and many of them may die, so at least be humane, be compassionate,” Dr. Varon said.
Local leaders push to test more seniors amid coronavirus pandemic
HOUSTON – Seniors are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to catching Coronavirus. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said she is working to make sure those seniors who can’t make it to a testing site but wanted to get tested, have the means to do so. “We’re now looking at and will announce soon our mobile units to go to where senior citizens are,” Lee said. The testing would occur either at the request of a facility where seniors live or by designated facilities that have seniors who may symptoms. At the north Houston testing site, 750 people have been tested since they opened last week.