COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations now on par with the worst of Dallas County's flu season

The hospitals in Dallas are now just as full as they were at the peak of this year’s flu season.

Data released Thursday shows about half of the city’s more than 4,000 available hospital beds are currently occupied. At the city’s 12 hospitals, about 56% of intensive care unit beds and about 30% of ventilators are in use.

Dallas Hospitals (12 reporting):
Total beds: 4,343 
Beds occupied: 2,267
Total ICU beds: 565 
ICU beds occupied: 315
Total ventilators: 622 
Ventilators in use: 188

To put that into perspective, Dallas County health director Dr. Philip Huang said the number of ICU hospitalizations is on par with or slightly exceeds the worst part of the 2019-2020 flu season.

Dr. Huang also said there were close to 20 flu-related deaths in the county this year. Fifteen people have died in Dallas County because of COVID-19 in just the past two weeks.

“We’ve already caught up to the flu death number in this shorter time. You know, we also reported that the number of cases requiring hospitalization have been sort of at the same level and ICU hospitalizations over the past week have been at the same level as the highest level we had all season with the flu,” he said.

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The CEO of the DFW Hospital Council said the numbers will change as more hospital beds and equipment are brought in. But also more people will likely be hospitalized.

“If the models are correct, we're going to have an increase in volume related to this very serious illness,” CEO Stephen Love said. “And we're doing surge planning to do our very best that we'll be prepared.”

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the medical community and the local government know the number of people infected will continue to rise in the days to come.

“We have a pretty good capacity right now. The problem is as we’ve talked, we’re just on the beginning of that curve and we’re seeing a pretty good increase of people in the hospital,” Jenkins said.

Dallas County officials point to the ongoing work to prepare the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as an overflow hospital if needed and efforts to bring other hospitals online to increase the number of beds.

They’re also still hoping social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders will slow the rise in coronavirus cases.

“It’s definitely making some impact and we’re very proud of everything that everyone is doing in making this work but the next two weeks are going to be really critical. People need to continue taking this very seriously and do everything they can to stay home,” Dr. Huang said.

“We'll probably see an increase for sure,” Love said. “But hopefully it won't increase as much as if we had done nothing.”

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