Coronavirus: Fourth largest US city may exceed ICU capacity in two weeks

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The fourth-largest city in the United States is experiencing a coronavirus crisis as cases surge and medical facilities fill up.

The Texas city of Houston has seen its COVID-19 hospitalizations triple in the last month and it is estimated the city may exceed its ICU capacity in two weeks, according to Texas Medical Center’s monitoring metrics.

People in the city “have just completely let their guard down” when it comes to following preventative measures, according to Houston Methodist Hospital CEO Dr. Marc Boom.

“Somewhere around Memorial Day, people just sort of sighed a breath of relief, and said, ‘hey its summer, I’m going to act like its summer and I’m going to act like [coronavirus] was never here,” Boom said in an interview with ABC News.

“I think we’re really paying the price of that now,” he added.

Texas surpassed 5,000 new infections in a single day for the first time on Tuesday, with the infection rate doubling to almost nine percent compared to last month. Hospitalizations have been at record highs – for 12 consecutive days.

Texas-based Dr. Christine Blackburn said the spike in cases is a combination of a lack of public precaution and reopening procedures not following recommended public health measures, such as enforced social distancing.

“What we are seeing now in Texas is likely just the beginning. I think we have a hard four to six weeks ahead of us,” said Blackburn in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

The top infectious disease expert in the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that “the next couple weeks are going to be critical” in Texas and other states that are trying to curtail an alarming spike in new cases.

The state is home to the largest pediatric hospital in the US, Texas Children’s Hospital, which has started to take adult patients seriously ill with the virus, to free up bed space in other Houston hospitals.

Dr. Peter Hotez of Texas Children’s Hospital told Al Arabiya English it is time for the city to “reimplement a new social distancing policy.”

Last month the city was given the grade of “F” in a COVID-19 social distancing scoreboard launched by a New York and Norway-based company Unacast, which collects and analyzes data about human mobility from smartphones. The scoreboard compares the city’s social distancing activity to its activity prior to COVID-19.

Harris County, of which Houston is part, received poor marks in all categories including reduction in average mobility and reduction in non-essential visits.

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