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Texas Medical Center leaders explain reformatted ICU bed capacity data

Data from the TMC shows the base level of ICU beds is nearly full, with thousands more beds available.

HOUSTON — While Houston's base level of ICU beds is nearly full, doctors say there are hundreds more beds available that can be repurposed into ICU beds if COVID-19 cases surge.

The latest Texas Medical Center data shows 1,294 patients occupying ICU beds out of the total 1,330 base level of ICU beds. Four-hundred and sixty (460) of those patients have COVID-19, which is 35 percent. Ninety-seven (97) percent of those base level ICU beds are occupied.

"That's what happens normally in hospitals. They're at their full capacity and when it gets crowded, they add additional beds, ventilators, and staff so you get the same quality of care," Dr. James McDeavitt, senior vice-president and dean of Clinical Affairs for Baylor College of Medicine, said.

He and his team advise Medical Center leaders with data on beds available, virus growth rates, hospitalization rates, and also provide staffing to make sure these patients can be adequately treated.

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What is 'Phase 2' of intensive care in Houston?

Doctors have been planning for and expect to move into "Phase 2" of intensive care this week.

Phase 2 allocates an extra 373 beds to handle an increase in patients, regardless of their diagnoses.

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There is also a Phase 3, which doctors are prepared for. They hope we can stop spreading the virus so that the extra 504 beds allocated for Phase 3 do not have to be used.

"Right now we don't have a crisis of beds today," said Dr. McDeavitt. "We have plenty of ICU capacity in the hospitals. We can take care of twice as many COVID-19 patients in the ICUs as we currently are."

What is positivity rate in COVID-19 testing?

More concerning for doctors is the rising "positivity rate." Positivity rate is essentially a giant fraction: the numerator is the number of people who test positive; the denominator is the total number of people tested.

Even though more people are getting tested (the denominator is increasing), more people are testing positive now than they were in April and May (the numerator is increasing). The percentage of people testing positive is higher now than it was a few months ago.

“We’re four times more likely to get COVID now than we were back in May and April? And the answer is absolutely yes," said Texas Medical Center CEO WIlliam McKeon.

McKeon said if the positivity rate keeps increasing, then the number of hospital beds could become a concern.

“We’re very really concerned because even the largest medical city in the world has its limits," said McKeon.

The advice remains the same: wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and hot water; wear a mask outside of your home; and stay at least six feet away from others

Doctors also advise that people only celebrate the July 4 holiday with people who live in their households.

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