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Health Officials In Texas Warn Of Full ICUs As COVID-19 Surge Worsens Across The State

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) - The latest surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations is having a deepening effect in Texas, as many hospitals are now stretched to capacity with sick patients.

And amid both the crises at health care facilities as well as court battles raging over the legality of safety measures in schools, recent news of Gov. Greg Abbott's positive test for COVID-19 has punctuated messaging from health officials that Texans need to remain vigilant during the pandemic.

The state's Department of State Health Services said Texas is in "one of its worst fights" it has faced with COVID-19, and mortuary trailers were requested this month as a preparatory maneuver.

"Hospital capacity concerns worsening. Fatalities are increasing faster," the department said Wednesday. More than 12,400 people are hospitalized with the virus as of Wednesday, according to state data, an increase from 10,791 last Wednesday.

ICU beds are running low, and health care employees are working frantically to find available space for those in need.

At Goodall Witcher Hospital in the central Texas town of Clifton, officials are finding it difficult to transfer COVID-19 patients in need of ICU care to other hospitals since they are at capacity, they say.

Chief Nursing Officer Joycesarah McCabe told CBS affiliate KWTX she calls hospitals throughout Texas, looking for availability. Sometimes calls are made to neighboring states, such as Louisiana or New Mexico.

"We have no beds, and then that's the end of the conversation. Some will say 'we are closed, we are on full divert, we've been on full divert for two weeks,'" McCabe told KWTX. "Sometimes on the other end of the phone you get someone that says, 'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.' Because they know we are desperate."

McCabe said staffers themselves have lost relatives or friends while providing care at the rural hospital. "A nurse, a sonographer and one of our physicians all lost someone either Saturday or Sunday to COVID. The youngest was 21, the oldest was 38," McCabe told KWTX.

Justin Squyres, a physician at the hospital, said to KWTX, "I lost my brother on Saturday. We waited five days for an ICU bed and it never happened.

"I have no way of knowing if an ICU bed would have saved him," Squyres said. "But he's not the only one, there are so many others."

Data Shows Uphill Battle To Slow Pandemic

The Texas DSHS is encouraging residents to get COVID-19 vaccines to stave off the worsening number of infections, saying only 322 ICU beds are available in the state.

"Full vaccination prevents nearly all cases of severe illness, hospitalization and death," the department said.

Nearly 66% of Texans who are eligible to get the vaccine have received at least one dose, according to state data, and 54.7% were fully vaccinated. This slightly trails the national average of 70.2% of eligible recipients with at least one dose and 59.6% fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Younger people nationwide have been vaccinated at lesser rates than older individuals, and health experts point to increased inoculations across all age groups as a way to help curb the pandemic.

The seven-day moving average of vaccinations for children ages 12-17 is increasing in Texas, the DSHS said, up from an average of around 10,500 vaccinations in early July to around 21,500 on Monday. A third of children ages 12-17 in the state are now fully vaccinated, the department said.

However, children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, and Texas has the most pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations in the nation at 239, according to the latest data released Monday by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Florida, which has also been hit hard with pediatric infections and received criticism alongside Texas for state leaders' refusals to allow for local mask mandates, had 170 children in hospitals with COVID-19.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The CNN Wire™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company contributed to this report.)

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