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Detailed, graphic look at COVID-19 numbers in the Houston area clarifies local crisis

New race and ethnicity data on deceased reveals disproportionate burden on African American patients

Detailed, graphic look at COVID-19 numbers in the Houston area clarifies local crisis

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Officials began reporting new, detailed figures this week to illustrate the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on intensive care bed use across the region, the value of social distancing and the disproportionate impact of the virus on black residents.

The Texas Medical Center is leading the collection of new public data that will be updated daily about Greater Houston area ICU use and ventilator availability at TMC member institution facilities in nine counties: Harris, Fort Bend, Galveston, Montgomery, Brazoria, Liberty, Chambers, Waller and Austin.

Figures as of April 8, 2020 released on April 9, 2020:

ICU Beds: 1,462

21% occupied by COVID-19 patients

47% occupied by non-COVID-19 patients

32% available

Another 1,370 ICU beds can be added during a surge for 2,800+ beds

Ventilators: 2,352

6% occupied by COVID-19 patients

15% occupied by non-COVID-19 patients

79% available

Looking for the latest on the CORONAVIRUS? Read our daily updates HERE.

The TMC visuals also show the effect of social distancing on personal protective equipment (PPE).

With maximum social distancing—“shutting everything down,” as Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a news conference on Wednesday—there is no shortage of N95 respirator masks, surgical face masks, eye protection, gowns, gloves or ventilators in Greater Houston. We are in a “moderate phase” of physical distancing, the mayor said, which creates shortages that can be overcome for respirator masks and eye protection and scarcity that requires support for ventilators. With minimum social distancing, all PPE stock except gloves is in danger of running out without access to more supplies.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the city had confirmed 12 COVID-19 deaths. For the first time, the data included race and ethnicity, in addition to age range, gender and whether patients had underlying conditions. Of the dozen deceased, eight were black, two were Hispanic and two were Anglo. All 12 had underlying health issues such as diabetes and hypertension, the mayor said.

African Americans comprise about 23 percent of Houston’s population, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, but 66 percent of COVID-19 deaths so far.

“At the very beginning, I even heard it: African Americans can’t get the coronavirus. … Not the case,” Turner said. “It’s important to provide this information and to de-aggregate the information so that people can see.”

Similar race and ethnicity data is forthcoming for Harris County and hospital patients, the mayor said, as is a heat map of neighborhoods with the heaviest burden of disease.

In response to questions about the timetable for opening up the city, Turner said decisions will be predicated on more “robust” testing and expansion of testing in lower-resource communities. The mayor said he has asked the Houston Health Department to make Sunnyside and East End priority areas.

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