(Pexels)

ICU bed capacity is dwindling across the five-county Austin metro.

Austin's three hospital systems—Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David's HealthCare—reported an overall hospital occupancy rate of 74% and an ICU occupancy rate of 89% on Thursday. Since July 10, the overall hospital occupancy rate has decreased from 77%, while ICU occupancy is up from 86%.


This means 643 hospital beds and 53 ICU beds are available in the five-county Austin metro.

"The hospitals are stretched," Austin-Travis County Alternate Health Authority Dr. Jason Pickett said on Wednesday.

Staffing shortages

Local hospitals are competing with facilities across Texas for supplemental staff, which is limiting the maximum capacity available in Austin hospitals—despite a surplus of beds and other equipment.

Officials in Austin are preparing to open the Austin Convention Center as a field hospital on July 21 to care for low-acuity patients should hospitals get overwhelmed. But it will not serve critical patients.

"We're not planning to run an ICU in the convention center," Dr. Pickett said. "We don't think that's practical, and folks who are critically ill that need that level of care are best served in the hospitals where the quality of care will be the best."

A 'critical limited resource'

ICU beds, however, are in the shortest supply.



Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin, told City Council last week that updated modeling revealed ICU capacity to be Austin's "critical limited resource"—filling up more quickly than hospital beds overall.



According to her projections, which she presented on July 9, Austin is on track to reach its current ICU capacity of 331 beds in early August.

There are currently 452 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the metro, including 145 who are in intensive care and 90 who are on ventilators, according to Austin Public Health data.

'A glimmer of hope'

Amid field hospital preparations, Dr. Pickett said there is a "glimmer of hope" as the average number of daily new COVID-related hospital admissions has plateaued slightly.

"This leveling off is very early for us to tell if this is going to be a trend or if we are going to continue on the upward trend that we have seen for the last couple of weeks," he added.


The seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-related hospital admissions in the Austin metro has plateaued slightly from a high of 75.1 on July 8.(Austin Public Health)


Yesterday evening Travis County reported 78 new COVID-related hospital admissions in the metro, bringing the seven-day moving average to 71.1.

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