In June, Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center was so overwhelmed by the pandemic that two of its wings had been transformed into Covid-19 wards.
Now, there are three.
Dr. Joseph Varon, chief medical officer, hadn’t had a day off since the virus hit months earlier.
He still hasn’t.
Back then, ICU nurse Tanna Ingraham was fighting the disease herself, after getting it from a patient, she thinks.
She recovered, but then got it again. “It’s like hell and back,” she says about 2020.
From bad to worse, this hospital is a perfect microcosm of how the disease is escalating – even as vaccines are being rolled out across the country.
“The next six weeks are going to be the darkest weeks in modern American medical history,” Varon says. “We are right during Christmas where people are not listening.”
Cases are exploding across Texas. The seven-day average of positive cases is at a record level – averaging over 16,000 daily new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. This average is up 15% compared to last week.
Lone Star State is reeling
About 40% of Covid-19 patients at the hospital are from other parts of the state reeling from the pandemic.
Walter Cuellar was transferred from West Texas, about 500 miles away. He thinks he and his wife picked up the virus at the supermarket. She had mild symptoms. Today, he’s on the mend but when he arrived was nearly put on a ventilator.
“Where I live, there are a lot of people where they don’t wear the mask,” he says. “There’s been a lot of times I go to the store with my wife and she and I were the only ones wearing a mask and other people weren’t wearing a mask at all.”
Bri Smith works with foreign exchange students and recently moved to Columbus, about 73 miles west of Houston. The wife and mom of three also thinks she got the virus while shopping.