Houston-area doctors concerned about rise in Coronavirus ICU patients

As of Monday, the Texas Medical Center reports about 27 percent of all intensive care unit beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

"In the last 10 days, we've seen a very rapid rise of patients getting admitted to the hospital and in the intensive care unit especially," said Dr. Faisal Masud, Medical Director of Critical Care at Houston Methodist Hospital.

He believes he is starting to see the impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on COVID-19 hospitalizations.

"We have expanded our intensive care unit capacity. We're managing them, but we do need these things to slow down," he cautioned.


He add some people dismiss their early symptoms because someone they know had mild case of COVID-19.

"When they wait too long, they get a lot more sicker because we're seeing it. I don't need to go anywhere, I don't need any data. I'm living the data," Dr. Masud noted.

Memorial Hermann Health System reports about 25 percent of its ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19. Although, Dr. David Callender, its President and CEO, believes they have not yet seen the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings.

"The reason that's important is because the ICU beds are very precious resources. We tend to use all of them, all the time for the sickest patients who come into our hospital," said Dr. Callender. "So, when those beds begin to fill up with COVID-19 patients that means there are fewer beds available for the sickest of the sick, so that means it's harder for the patients who require that level of care to get it. We're very concerned about the number of ICU beds and, although we can add a few, it's not as easy to add ICU capacity as it is what we consider the normal hospital medical surgical bed capacity."

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Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, infectious disease expert with Baylor College of Medicine, also believes hospitals have not yet seen the impact of the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Looking at the curve, it looks like it is about half or maybe slightly less than half of when we had the big peak in July," he said referring to hospitalizations. "That said, we don't want to see those numbers continue to increase."

That is the fear especially as the potential for more holiday gatherings approach.

"I'm actually very concerned with my own team members. We're doing everything trying to get everybody safe and soundly -- mentally, psychologically -- and their families supported also," Dr. Masud noted.

"Not only do we have the strain of caring for a lot of very sick patients, we're also trying to care of their loved ones, their family members. Provide support and encouragement of the patients and those who support them. And, so it's just a big challenge," added Dr. Callender.


The doctors also describe how some people believe because a vaccine is pending approval, they are able to forgo wearing masks or other basic safety measures.

Dr. Kulkarni says the vaccine will not be the "magic switch" that ends the pandemic.

Dr. Callender says even after the vaccine is approved, he expects people will have to continue to wear masks for another six months until enough people are vaccinated.