Texas hospitals prepare for the worst as COVID-19 slams the Lone Star State: 'I am frightened'

Texas hospitals prepare for the worst as COVID-19 slams the Lone Star State: 'I am frightened'
Greg Abbott in 2012, Gage Skidmore

With COVID-19's highly infectious Delta variant raging in the Lone Star State, Texas hospitals are preparing for a surge in COVID-19 patients. Meanwhile, far-right Gov. Greg Abbott continues to draw sharp criticism from health experts, Texas Democrats and school officials for his dangerous and reckless anti-masker policies.

Texas Tribune reporters Joshua Fechter and Patrick Svitek explain, "As Texas students too young to get vaccinated head back to school while the highly contagious Delta variant threatens to overflow hospitals, a growing cadre of local government officials have mandated mask-wearing in bids to slow the spread of COVID-19 — defying Gov. Greg Abbott."

Like another far-right MAGA governor, Florida's Ron DeSantis, Abbott has forbidden local school districts in his state from having mask mandates — and some school officials are defying him despite the threat of legal action from Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

According to Fechter and Svitek, officials in Dallas County and Bexar County have "successfully sued for the right to again require masks in public schools and many government buildings — at least temporarily." And the Texas Tribune reporters noted that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, on August 11, "went a step further" when he "mandated that child care centers and businesses must also require employees and customers to wear masks."

Jenkins warned, "We are all team public health, and the enemy is the virus. Right now, the enemy is winning."

School districts in Austin, Houston and Fort Worth, Fechter and Svitek report, are defying Abbott by requiring "students, teachers and staff to don masks."

Meanwhile, Texas hospitals fear being overwhelmed by new COVID-19 patients in the weeks and months ahead — and according to CNN reporters Travis Caldwell, Keith Allen and Carma Hassan, those hospitals are desperately fighting to make sure they are adequately equipped.

"As Texas faces another rise in hospitalizations approaching a peak witnessed during the 2020 holiday season," the reporters explain, "officials are concerned over health care worker shortages…. There are only 368 ICU beds currently available throughout the state, and 10,463 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state, according to state health data Wednesday. Finding people to administer these beds is becoming increasingly difficult."

On August 10, Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, president and CEO of Harris Health System in Houston, told the Texas Senate Committee on Health & Human Services that health care workers in her state are "tired, overworked and constantly under siege."

Porsa explained, "I have lost staff to fatigue and retirement…. I always see the silver lining, but I am frightened by what is coming."

During an interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar, Porsa noted, "What is concerning is the rate by which our COVID-positive patients are increasing."

Caldwell, Allen and Hassan also point out that Texas is suffering from "lagging vaccination rates."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70% of U.S.-based adults have now been at least partially vaccinated for COVID-19. But vaccination rates in the U.S. vary considerably from state to state, and many red states are well below that 70%.

In Texas, according to the Mayo Clinic, 53% of adults have been at least partially vaccinated for COVID-19 — compared to 73% in Massachusetts, 76% in Vermont or 69% in Maine. However, Texas doesn't fare as badly as other states when it comes to vaccination. Texas, at this point, is light red politically rather than deep red, and the states that fare even worse than Texas, according to Mayo, include Alabama and Louisiana at 45% and Wyoming and Idaho at 42%. The more MAGA the state, the worse its vaccination rates.

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