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'We're fearful of a surge already on an existing surge': D-FW area hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients

Parts of the hospital not meant to hold patients are being converted into patient areas as COVID-19 hospitalization numbers surge across North Texas.

TARRANT COUNTY, Texas — "We're exhausted," said Dr. Justin Fairless. 

He's an emergency medicine physician and an assistant professor at TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine. He works at the Texas Health Harris Methodist hospitals in Tarrant County. 

"It's to the point where our staff areas are not safe to take your masks off to drink water," said Fairless.

He said the number of patients hospitalized due to the novel coronavirus is stretching the hospital staff, and its space. 

"We have so many patients with COVID that we are actually having to put patients with COVID in the hallways, and having some wait in the waiting room with COVID. We know they have it, but we just don't have anywhere to put them," he said.

Credit: Justin Fairless, D.O.
Dr. Justin Fairless in PPE as he treats COVID-19 patients in North Texas.

Even as more vaccines arrive in Texas and are being distributed, Fairless urged people to continue the precautions of wearing a mask and social distancing. He said there is a long way to go before enough people are vaccinated.

As of Friday, Steve Love with the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council said in Trauma Service Area E, 4,098 people hospitalized are COVID-19 patients. They represent 26.2% of bed capacity. 

And, Love said, there are just 82 available adult staffed ICU beds throughout the region. COVID-19 adult ICU patients are 49% of all adult ICU patients. 

Those numbers represent a slight decrease in hospitalized patients, but Love still anticipates a surge within two weeks.

"We really feel that we have not seen the surge associated with the religious holidays, nor with the New Year. So the latter part of January, we're fearful of a surge already on an existing surge," said Love.

He said while the vaccine offers a light at the end of the tunnel, people still need to wait months before seeing the effectiveness of the vaccine. 

"The COVID-19 infection is still here. It hasn't gone anywhere."