‘Stay Home’: Laredo Officials Plead With Public After Hospital ICUs Reach Capacity

Intensive care units in Laredo were full as of last Thursday, but the city is limited in how much it can restrict business and social activity to slow virus spread.

By Jill Ament & Caroline CovingtonJanuary 19, 2021 1:22 pm, , , ,

COVID-19 cases are surging in Laredo, and hospitals there are running out of space to care for critically ill patients.

Texas Public Radio’s Maria Mendez says there haven’t been any available intensive care unit beds since last Thursday.

“According to the latest numbers, more than 48% of the hospital capacity here is being taken up by COVID-19 patients alone,” Mendez told Texas Standard.

To manage, she says hospitals are opening up additional floors to accommodate more patients. They’re also setting up tents outside to treat less critically ill patients with antibodies in the hopes that will keep them from needing to be hospitalized. Some are even transferring patients to standalone clinics and emergency rooms.

Meanwhile, Mendez says local officials are limited in how much they can father limit business and social activity to slow the spread of the virus. That’s because Gov. Greg Abbott has said he won’t impose further statewide restrictions. She says Laredo’s mayor can only enforce the existing rules.

“Officials have said that they feel like their hands are tied. The mayor, Pete Saenz, said on Friday that they couldn’t really do anything but focus on enforcement and prevention,” Mendez said.

Laredo did manage to instate an overnight curfew, which limits some household gatherings. But it doesn’t limit bar or restaurant capacity.

The surge in hospitalizations is having a ripple effect. Doctors have told her that some people with chronic health conditions are reluctant to get the care they need because they’ve heard the hospitals are full.

Mendez says local officials are pleading with the public to help curb the surge in cases. The city recently sent two text alerts.

“They told them to stay home because medical staff are overwhelmed and to, ‘Save a life,'” she said.

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