Friday, June 26, 2020

Looking Up to See Bottom

As he prepared to reopen the state in late April, the governor boasted that more than 1,000 tracers were in place to track down infections and advise anyone exposed to stay home. A website was up and running. Within weeks, thousands more tracers would be deployed and the technology to manage their progress available statewide.

Fast forward to June 5 (three weeks ago now):

One of Abbott’s reopening metrics for June 1 called for up to 4,000 Texas contact tracers, who work to identify people with possible exposure to the coronavirus and call them to get tested and self-quarantine.

But Texas officials said Thursday there were roughly 2,900 contact tracers working around the state. Of those, some 1,140 are working for the Texas Department of State Health Services, 1,170 are working for local health departments or their nonprofit and university partners, and about 600 are working for a company recently hired by the state.

State officials downplayed the importance of meeting the initial goal despite the public health agency’s statements last month assuring that health departments were in a “phase of hiring that will get us up to 4,000 in the coming weeks.”

I'm honestly not surprised by that.  Abbott has been announcing for weeks that he would announce his "plans" for schools in Texas in the fall, in July.  He dropped the annoncement earlier this month without so much as a courtesy notice to school districts that the announcement was coming, much less trying through staff to work with the school districts on what to do, how to do it, and when to announce it.  Mini-Trump, in other words; he sounds less insane than Trump in front of cameras, but he's just as incompetent.

And three weeks later, or as we like to call it, the "present":

“Local health officials say standing up an army of tracers and the infrastructure to support them has been far more complicated than it may have seemed,” the Chronicle reported. “Key components of state and local tracing programs were not in place as Abbott expanded reopenings in May and June, even as cases began to rise and testing for the virus fell short of expectations.”

Yeah, kinda hard to trace people when you can't even test 'em.

So here we are now.  Abbott suspends elective surgeries in the four largest cities in Texas to free up hospital beds for covid-19 patients.  Abbott tells us all to stay home, again (no shit, Sherlock?).  Abbott says we are facing a "massive outbreak."

Even with the hint of new restrictions to protect hospital space, Abbott said in a separate interview with KDFM-TV in Beaumont that hospital executives have assured him that they will be able to handle the rising numbers of patients.

“If there are more people coming in with COVID-19, they will ensure that beds are available,” Abbott said.
The Houston Fire Marshal is already planning to investigate the Texas Medical Center, to be sure they don't exceed their capacity.  And here in Houston, we're already facing the burden of more really clumsy messaging:

All regular ICU beds in the Texas Medical Center are now being used, according to numbers just released on the TMC website, but officials say they can add more.

Hospitals in Houston’s Medical Center will now move some ICU patients to beds not normally used for critical care.

Twenty-eight percent of the ICU patients are being treated for COVID-19.

Despite reaching surge capacity, four hospital CEOs said Thursday there’s no cause for “unwarranted alarm.”

Those same CEOs signed a letter to Houstonians Wednesday warning, “If this trend continues, our hospital system capacity will become overwhelmed.”

Dr. Marc Boom explained in a virtual news conference Thursday that the purpose of the letter was to “urge people to do the right things in the community and do so by talking about capacity, but really ended up unintentionally sounding an alarm bell too loudly about capacity. 
Simple fact is, a person can "do the right thing" all they want, and still get sick.  Are there going to be enough beds when we need them?

But Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office said the county is prepared for a surge. Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for Hidalgo, said an overflow space at NRG Park is ready to receive patients at a moment’s notice. That space would only be used if hospital surge capacity is exceeded, he said.

Yeah, maybe.  As a doctor pointed out last night on local news, overflow beds are one thing; doctors and staff to treat patients in an overflow facility, is another.

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