This State Is Warning People to "Shelter in Place" as ICUs Reach Capacity

State officials say drastic measures are needed as hospitals become overwhelmed.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the country, one of the most concerning aspects of the ongoing outbreaks is the rapidly rising number of hospitalizations. Some states have been so hard hit that they've been forced to take drastic measures: In Arizona, patients are being scored to determine who gets COVID care. Meanwhile in Texas, the situation has become so dire that residents of certain counties are being advised to "shelter in place" as ICUs fill up quickly.

Two counties, Starr and Hidalgo, sent out emergency alerts on July 3 warning residents that hospitals were at capacity. In a Facebook post, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera wrote, "The local and valley hospitals are at full capacity and have no more beds available. I urge all of our residents to please shelter-in-place, wear face coverings, practice social distancing and AVOID GATHERINGS."

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Mayors of two major Texas cities are also issuing warnings about the rising hospitalizations in the state. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says that in two weeks, the city's hospital system could be in "serious, serious trouble."

"The number of people who are getting sick and going to the hospitals has exponentially increased. The number of people in our ICU beds has exponentially increased," Turner said on CBS's Face the Nation on July 5. The problem in Houston, he stressed, is not beds but staffing. "We can always provide additional beds, but we need the people, the nurses and everybody else, the medical professionals to staff those beds. That's the critical point right now," Turner continued.

Appearing on CNN's State of the Union on July 5, Austin Mayor Steve Adler echoed Turner's warning. "If we don't change the trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun," he said. "And in our ICUs, I could be 10 days away from that."

austin texas skyline

On July 2, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide order making face masks mandatory. This follows the decision to shut down bars to try to slow the spread in the state. Speaking to ABC's This Week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she was grateful for these measures, but that a stay-at-home order would be necessary to keep hospitals from becoming completely overwhelmed. "We don't have room for incrementalism, we're seeing these kinds of numbers—nor should we wait for all the hospital beds to fill and all these people to die, before we take drastic action," Hidalgo said.

As of July 6, The New York Times reports around 200,140 coronavirus cases in Texas, with about 2,665 deaths. The experts at Covid Act Now label Texas a "high-risk" state, thanks to the high infection rate (the average number of people a sick person will infect) of 1.24 and the positive test rate of 14.5 percent, which suggests the virus is spreading quickly without sufficient testing. These numbers have led former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, to call Texas one of the four new epicenters of the pandemic in the U.S. For more on that, check out These Are the 4 New Epicenters of the Pandemic, Former FDA Chief Says.

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