Texas Medical Center, Largest Medical Complex in the World, Reaches 98 Percent ICU Capacity

Texas Medical Center (TMC), the largest medical complex in the world, reached 98 percent ICU capacity on Wednesday as the state's daily caseload remains high.

TMC serves the greater Houston area, a region of the state that has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. As of August 15, there were 404 COVID-19 patients in the ICU and 739 patients in general beds, according to the Houston Chronicle.

TMC-affiliated hospitals have been operating beyond their base ICU capacity for most of July and August. Although the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU have been on a slight decline, their ICU beds remained full as the number of other patients in the unit have increased.

The medical complex has planned for increased hospitalization rates throughout the ongoing global health crisis and has measured ICU capacity in three phases.

TMC's healthcare institutions had previously been in Phase 2, which included additional ICU beds, staffing and equipment on top of their standard ICU beds in response to an increased demand in hospital resources.

TMC has since moved into Phase 1, which constitutes only their standard ICU beds, so that while they have reached 98 percent capacity, the hospitals are still able to provide additional capacity in the case there is a surge in hospitalizations.

Although hospitalizations have begun to fall off, the number of positive cases remains high in Texas.

On Tuesday, August 18, the state reported 8,162 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a database from the New York Times. Texas is currently ranked by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention as the state with the third-highest number of infections in the nation.

Texas Medical Center
Healthcare workers move a patient in the COVID-19 Unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas Thursday, July 2, 2020. On Wednesday, Texas Medical Center, the largest medical complex in the world and the largest institution serving the greater Houston area, reached 98 percent capacity. Mark Felix/AFP

The Lone Star State emerged as a national hot spot for the virus in mid-June after the state began reopening businesses and cases spiked. Governor Greg Abbott was forced to make sweeping reversals and issue a statewide mask mandate, a move many Republican governors have been hesitant to make.

Abbott said during a press conference last week that he would consider reopening Texas' bars if hospitalizations decrease and the state's positivity rate drops below 10 percent.

According to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University, Texas' positivity rate currently sits at 12 percent. In the TMC hospital system, the test positivity rate is 8.6 percent.

TMC has also been tracking how effective safety measures, such as social distancing and mask wearing, have been in slowing the growth of the virus. The medical complex's latest data dashboard shows that the virus spread is slowing in Harris County, one of the areas in Texas that was hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.