Number of people hospitalized for coronavirus climbs; Gov. Abbott holding press conference

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, June 16, 2020

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On Monday, the state reported that there are 2,326 patients with positive tests who are hospitalized — a new high for the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott has said there’s “no real need to ratchet back the opening of businesses in the state,” citing the state’s hospital capacity.

On Tuesday, he’s holding a news conference to provide an update on hospital capacity. He will be joined by John Zerwas, executive vice chancellor for health affairs of the University of Texas System; John Hellerstedt, commissionner of the Texas Department of State Health Services; and Nim Kidd, chief of the Division of Emergency Management.

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The news conference starts 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Texas continued an upward trend in hospitalizations of coronavirus patients, setting a new one-day high Monday for the seventh time in eight days.

That trend has local officials in some of the state’s largest cities urging residents to be diligent about social distancing and other measures such as wearing masks.

Texas health officials reported 2,326 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 and 1,254 new cases, the most ever reported for a Monday, which is typically the lowest day of the week for new virus cases.

The actual number of people who have contracted the virus is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

The mayors of Austin and Dallas, two cities seeing a strong uptick strong uptick in cases and hospitalizations, urged diligence of social distancing and use of masks.

Hospitalization rate has been noted by Gov. Greg Abbott as a key indicator for re-opening the state economy, but Texas has been steadily expanding customer capacity for businesses for weeks, even as the number of new cases and hospitalizations have been steadily rising.

For example, restaurants were allowed to increase from 50% to 75% last Thursday. Hospitalization rate has been noted by Abbott as a key indicator for re-opening the state economy.

Abbott has said Texas has the testing ability and enough hospital beds and ventilators to handle a surge in new cases.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins called rising hospitalizations a tip-of-the-iceberg indicator of a bigger problem.

“The iceberg below the water is obviously far greater than the iceberg above it and a small increase in hospitalizations indicates a larger increase in illness,” Jenkins said.

In Austin, Mayor Steve Adler said businesses should minimize occupancy and use strong enforcement of facemask and social distancing policies.

Austin Interim Health Authority Mark Escott said the city had a 90% increase in cases over the last week. Hospitalizations rose by 50% and use of ventilators by 29% compared to the previous week.

Adler said the city is seeing its Hispanic and black communities hit especially hard.

“A lot of people are saying Black Lives Matter, because they do, but now you have to decide if it is more than a slogan, if you are willing to put that to action,” Adler said.