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'We're full right now': COVID-19 hospitalizations soar at Houston Healthcare

COVID-19 hospitalizations rose more than 600% over the last month

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — COVID-19 hospitalizations at Houston Healthcare are as high as they've ever been, pushing the facility to capacity.

According to data from the hospital system, the number of people currently hospitalized with the virus has risen more than 600% over the last four weeks.

As of their latest report, Houston Healthcare now has 37 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Four weeks ago, numbers were so low the hospital wouldn't disclose an exact figure for fear of identifying patients, opting only to say there were fewer than five.

Dr. Dan Stewart, the hospital's chief medical officer, says the ICU and the stepdown unit known as the ICA that was converted into additional ICU space are both at capacity.

"Our ICU and ICA are both full right now," he said.

About 10 of the 32 ICU beds at the hospital have COVID-19 patients.

In the past, Dr. Stewart says COVID-19 patients made up a much higher percentage of the ICU occupants.

He's hopeful improved treatment methods developed over the past few months will lead to better outcomes for this new batch of patients and says new drugs like Remdesivir have helped. 

However, deaths tend to be a lagging indicator behind new cases and new hospitalizations, so determining the true impact, at this point, is challenging.

Non-COVID patients, who Stewart says may have delayed seeking medical care during the earlier peak of the pandemic, fill up the other ICU beds.

"The patients that are coming to us now with other illnesses tend to be sicker and are needing hospitalization," said the doctor.

General inpatient beds are feeling the same pinch.

"We're full right now," said Dr. Stewart. "We are at capacity. We are on code surge which means we're trying to get as many people out of the hospital as we can that can possibly be discharged home and we've got people waiting in the emergency room to be admitted who are pretty sick so we're busy right now."

Stewart said this number of patients is unusual but not unheard of--even in the years before COVID-19 emerged as a threat.

He did not rule out the possibility of diverting patients to another hospital but said if you need help, Houston Healthcare staff will still likely be able to treat you on site.

"We may have to scramble around to try to find you a bed or whatever and we do have some patients in holding areas," he said. "We do this all the time," but obviously, a drop in patient numbers would help.

Stewart says the simplest steps like wearing a mask, social distancing, and avoiding places like bars and clubs could go a long way toward giving healthcare workers time to treat the sick.

"I liken it to, you know, other things that are risks for us," said Dr. Stewart. "Driving in a car is a big risk for all of us. We know the risk involved, but we exercise caution. You know, we buckle up when we get in our cars and try to drive the speed limit."

Taking basic step to prevent the virus, he says, follows the same logic.

Coliseum Health System says they have also seen a recent spike in virus-related hospitalizations.

For months, Navicent Health has consistently declined to say how many COVID-19 patients they are treating.

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