Houston-Area Intensive-Care Wards Overflow as Virus Spreads

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Houston’s intensive-case wards are exceeding normal capacity, prompting hospitals to tap so-called surge beds to cope with the expanding Covid-19 outbreak.

The fourth-largest U.S. city’s ICUs were at 102% of capacity as of late Tuesday, with 1,350 patients, according to the Texas Medical Center. The influx came as the Lone Star state reported new Covid-19 cases broke records for a second straight day and fatalities surged the most in seven weeks.

The sickest Covid-19 patients occupied 36% of those ICU beds, with the rest filled by people being treated for other serious ailments, the medical center data released on Wednesday showed.

At the current admissions rate, surge capacity -- regular hospital beds converted and specially equipped to handle intensive-care patients -- will hold out for at least two weeks before the next phase of emergency measures will need to be implemented, the medical center said on its website.

Hospitals aren’t alone in feeling the strain of the pandemic. Across Texas, Houston and other cities can’t keep up with demand for virus testing. On Wednesday, two of Houston’s open-air testing facilities shut before noon local time after reaching their combined daily capacity of 900 samples.

Texas posted a record 8,076 new virus cases on Wednesday, pushing the total to 168,062, according to state health department figures. Fatalities jumped by 57 to 2,481 for the biggest one-day increase since May 14.

The state’s positive-test rate has been above 13% for four days, the longest stretch above that threshold since the pandemic emerged.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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