Across Greater Houston, including the Katy area, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported a total of 40,903 cases of COVID-19 since March 4, when the department began tracking data. Of …
Across Greater Houston, including the Katy area, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported a total of 40,903 cases of COVID-19 since March 4, when the department began tracking data. Of those, 6,300 were diagnosed in the first six days of July.
Executive orders related to public health are in effect in all three counties in the Katy area. Fort Bend and Harris counties have their own orders while Waller County falls under Tex. Gov. Greg Abbott’s order due to the county having 20 cases or more.
"Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a July 2 press release announcing his order. “We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another—and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces.”
That same day, Abbott issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, and making it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than 10 and must maintain six feet between themselves and those not in their households.
All of the executive orders require residents to practice social distancing and wear face masks in public spaces where they cannot remain socially distanced such as at the grocery store. Churches and polling places are exempt from the mask requirement, though wearing a mask at those locations is encouraged by state and county officials. Those with medical conditions which may cause concern related to wearing a mask should speak with their personal physicians and mental health providers for advice concerning wearing masks.
Orders now prohibit groups larger than 10 people from gathering, with certain exceptions.
Caseloads and hospital space:
Across Texas, more than 210,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported since the pandemic struck the state in early March. Of those, 37,776 cases are from Harris County; 4,346 are from Fort Bend County; and, 195 from Waller County, according to reports from DSHS.
Across the state, 2,715 patients have succumbed to COVID-19, with 407 of those deaths occurring in Harris County. Fort Bend County has seen a reported 59 deaths due to COVID-19 while Waller County Judge Trey Duhon’s July 7 report via Facebook indicated the county has not had any fatalities to date.
Testing will be available in Waller County on July 23 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Pattison Fire Department, Duhon said. Those wanting to get tested can visit www.txcovidtest.org or call 512-883-2400 to register for the test.
While the mortality rate remains fairly low, local health authorities continue to emphasize that ensuring capacity at area hospitals is vital to maintain low mortality rates. Additionally, they are concerned with the other impacts the disease can have on the body such as additional lung infections, heart attacks, kidney failure, strokes and blood clotting.
As of July 6, the Texas Medical Center has moved into the second phase of its surge plan. This adjusts medical facilities to increase the number of ICU beds from 1,330 to 1,703. Of those beds, 600 are taken by COVID-19 patients while 762 are taken by non-COVID-19 patients. Normal care units in hospitals show 4,463 beds being taken up by non-COVID-19 patients and 1,661 cases of COVID-19 that have not been placed in ICU care, according to data available on the TMC website. That leaves 2,956 beds available for patients. TMC’s data portal also reports that cases in the area are up about 1.5 times what they were the prior week.
A July 6 projection of bed capacity at all TMC hospitals shows that TMC expects to enter their third phase of expanded capacity by July 20 or earlier as case counts continue to rise.
Battalion Chief of Community Medicine for Harris County Emergency Joe Casciotti said hospital capacity isn’t the only concern. HCESD 48 ambulance crews have seen a dramatic rise in the number of calls they are responding to, from a normal load of 20-25 calls per day to 30 calls per day. Additionally, due to increased activity at emergency rooms, transferring patients to the ER’s care has taken dramatically longer in most cases, he said.
“It’s pretty much what you would see during a really bad flu season,” Casciotti said. “Really long wait times to transfer patients to the emergency room because they just don’t have the space. Hour and a half to two-hour wait times. The whole time that’s occurring (the department’s EMT crews are) not available to respond to other emergencies.”
Casciotti said the department is doing its best to provide patients with options to avoid the emergency room. Community paramedics visit with patients to provide intermediate care and help connect them with non-emergent options to ensure their health is maintained and hospitalization isn’t necessary. This is accomplished through telemedicine, taking patients to stand-alone urgent cares and emergency rooms which is only allowed under emergency situations and working with community partners like Christ Clinic and the Methodist and Memorial Hermann hospital systems. These help manage the strain that has been put on the department’s resources.
“In the past three weeks we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of patients flagged as COVID-positive or potentially COVID-positive based on the symptoms,” Casciotti said. “That’s more in the last three weeks than all of May combined.”
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