]Intensive care units at the Lyndon B. Johnson hospital in Houston are entirely full, CNN reported, as Texas – where less than 50 per cent of all residents are fully vaccinated – struggles to fight a third wave of infection.
Texas Health Hospitals in Rockwall, a suburb of Dallas, was also preparing its own makeshift tent wards for the expected influx.
On Tuesday the state recorded 12,881 new cases. The state’s numbers are creeping back up towards the all-time high of more than 27,000 infections recorded in a single day in January.
Only 45.81 per cent of Texans have taken advantage of the vaccine, according to John Hopkins University – putting Texas well into the bottom half of the national vaccine ‘league table’.
Harris Health System in Houston said that the emergency tents, outside in temperatures well over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, was to deal with the new patients.
Tents are seen outside Lyndon B. Johnson hospital in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday. The tents, erected by Harris Health System, are in readiness for an expected overflow of COVID cases
Workers are seen outside the hospital in Houston on Monday, putting the tents up
Nurses are seen on Tuesday readying their tents in Rockwall, Texas
COVID case numbers in Texas are soaring, with only Florida seeing more infections
Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, is refusing to reintroduce mask mandates amid the surge
‘There is no pre-determined time for when they will begin to be used, but they want the tented environment to be ready to go in the event they are needed,’ said Bryan McLeod, Harris Health spokesperson.
The Delta strain of the virus, which first emerged in India in December, now accounts for around 73 per cent of new cases in Texas, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures.
‘What is intriguing about this surge is not so much the magnitude of the numbers, but the speed at which the numbers are going up,’ said Esmaeil Porsa, president and CEO of Harris Health System.
‘It took us five weeks to get from one (patient) to 120.
‘When I look at the last surge, it took us three months — the rapid rise in the amount of COVID patients is very concerning.’
A man is seen being vaccinated on July 21 in Brownsville, Texas. The state has a worryingly low level of vaccination
Currently, there are about 122 patients being treated for the virus at its two hospitals, Porsa said.
The second, Ben Taub Hospital, is currently at 95 percent capacity in its intensive care unit, where 27 per cent of patients have tested positive for the virus, CNN reported.
‘The situation is bad and only getting worse. We are not heading towards a crisis, we are in the middle of a crisis,’ Porsa said.
Around 87.1 per cent of all hospital beds in the state are currently in use — the highest level since the start of the pandemic, the Texas Tribune reported.
‘Everybody who’s unvaccinated needs to get a vaccine,’ Dr David Callender, president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System, told the newspaper.
‘That’s what will keep us out of those terrible situations where people need care in a hospital and they can’t get it.’
On Monday Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, issued an urgent appeal for medical staff to come and assist with surging COVID cases – even as he resists calls to reinstate a mask mandate.
Abbott made his cry for help as the rolling two-week daily average of new COVID-19 cases in his state has increased by 165 per cent to 8,533, according to John Hopkins University research data.
Meanwhile, school boards across the Lone Star State announced they were re-imposing mask mandates in a bid to try and lower infection numbers.
On Monday, Austin’s school board announced that they were enforcing mask mandates.
Austin Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde said at a specially called board meeting that starting Wednesday, the school district ‘will require masking of all individuals, all visitors, on all district property, at campuses, and at any other district offices.’
She added: ‘I am responsible for the safety, health and welfare of each and every one of our students and our staff.
‘If I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we’ve been overly cautious, not that we have fallen short.’
Michael Hinojosa, the superintendent of Dallas schools – the state’s second-largest public school system – announced on Monday that the district would require masks and social distancing from Tuesday, Abbott’s ban notwithstanding.
Hinojosa said the school district’s legal advisors assured that Abbott’s order does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students.
The superintendent of the Houston school district, the state’s largest, announced last week that the district would require masks and social distancing in the district’s schools effective upon district board approval Thursday.
A group of parents sued the Houston Independent School District over the weekend, challenging the requirements.
Also Monday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins filed a lawsuit asking a judge to strike down Abbott’s mask mandate ban.
Greg Abbott, pictured on June 30, is asking medical staff to travel to Texas to assist with the surge in COVID cases. Only Florida is seeing more new infections at the moment
Texas currently ranks second behind Florida for the highest daily average COVID-19 cases.
Abbott spoke as two hospitals in his state closed their ER rooms, elective procedures were cancelled, and the capital, Austin, sent out an emergency warning to residents telling them to stay home, mask up and get vaccinated.
‘The situation is critical,’ said Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis county’s medical director.
‘Our hospitals are severely stressed and there is little we can do to alleviate their burden with the surging cases.’
The Texas trauma service area that includes Austin only has six available ICU beds, 499 available hospital beds and 313 available ventilators, according to The Guardian – a shocking shortage of resources for a population nearly 2.4 million strong.
Hunt, 80 miles north west of San Antonio, and Rockwall, a suburb of Dallas, both said they were temporarily closing their ER units.
Rockwall was also putting tents outside, as overflow.
Abbott has directed the Texas Department of State Health Services to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from beyond the state’s borders.
Abbott also directed the state health department and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to open additional COVID-19 antibody infusion centers to treat patients not needing hospital care and expand COVID-19 vaccine availability to the state’s underserved communities.
A patient is helped into a vehicle after leaving the Houston Methodist Hospital on July 16. Houston is seeing a surge in infections
Anti vaccine protesters are seen at a demonstration outside the Houston hospital (above) on June 7
Only around 45 per cent of Texans are fully vaccinated. Delta is wreaking havoc in the state
An anti-vaccine rally protester dressed up as Joe Biden holds a sign outside of Houston Methodist Hospital on June 26
The governor is taking all action short of lifting his emergency order banning county and local government entities from requiring the wearing of masks and social distancing, to lower the COVID-19 risk.
The Republican has said repeatedly that Texans have the information and intelligence to make their own decisions on what steps to take to protect their health and the health of those around them.
His confidence is counter to the exasperation expressed last month by Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, who was visibly angered by her residents’ reluctance to get vaccinated and take care of themselves.
‘Folks are supposed to have common sense,’ she said.
‘But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.’
In Texas, the heads of local school districts were taking matters into their own hands and defying Abbott’s ban on mask mandates.
Abbott is seen with Donald Trump on June 30, when Trump visited the U.S.-Mexico border