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Even as positive COVID cases and new hospital admissions are on a downward trend, ICU capacity is at dire levels.


At a press conference Friday, Austin Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said Austin ICUs are over capacity with 229 ICU patients for 200 beds. ICU patients are also being cared for longer. While hospitals are "stretching themselves thin" to provide for more patients, there are patients that should be getting ICU care that are unable to due to capacity.

Additionally, routine medical care is being impacted, Walkes said. At one point this week, 20 patients were looking to be transferred to get care—five were for COVID, the other 15 were for strokes and other illnesses, according to Walkes.

Austin Public Health Director Dr. Adrienne Stirrup told a story of a veteran with appendicitis who lost his life as hospitals were forced to turn him away.

"That is sad that in this day and age that someone could pass from something that could be resolved relatively quickly because our hospitals are full of folks that don't necessarily have to be there," Stirrup said, referring to people that could choose to get the vaccine to prevent hospitalization.

Austin health officials are asking the remaining 31% who aren't fully vaccinated to get the shot to help relieve hospitals and to prevent potential cancellations of major events like Austin City Limits. The department says that those unvaccinated are 10 times more likely to require hospitalization and 10 times more likely to die from it.

On the positive side, new hospital admissions are declining and the COVID test positivity rate is down to about 10%.

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