HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The number of COVID-19 patients in Rio Grande Valley hospitals has decreased over the last week, but the number of available ICU beds has not gone up. More ICU beds are in use today than have been in weeks.
According to the DSHS website that tracks hospitalizations statewide, Trauma Service Area (TSA) V –which is the four counties that make up the Rio Grande Valley– has 2,401 patients in the hospital.
Of those, 599 are COVID-19 patients, meaning 25% of people in hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley are there because of COVID-19.
The majority of those patients aren’t in the ICU.
Most of the time, COVID-19 patients don’t get sent to the ICU immediately.
“They’re there for days or a week, and a lot of people get better at that point, but some people get sicker,” explained Dr. James Castillo, Cameron County Health Authority.
It’s the people who get sicker, not better, that need to be sent to the ICU, he explains.
“And so that’s one of the big challenges,” continued Dr. Castillo. “Once a person with COVID ends up in the ICU, they can be there for a very long time.”
They’re there until they get better, but not everyone does.
Dr. Castillo told KVEO that TSA V is on par with New York City for deaths per million people.
The formula to find deaths per million people is simple. Take the number of deaths, divided by total population, and multiply that number by one million. So that would be (4,202/1,385,000) x 1,000,000.
That gives us 3,033 deaths per million population in the area.
According to the New York Times, New York City has had 27,856 deaths, and an estimated population of 8,336,000. So (27,856/8,336,000) x 1,000,000 = 3,341.
New York City has six times the population of the Rio Grande Valley, but only around 300 more deaths per million people.
The number of daily deaths in the area rose during the last half of January, and it should start to decrease as we move past the peak in cases and hospitalizations we saw at the end of January.
There are still several dozen people in the TSA in the ICU for COVID-19 related reasons.
Dr. Castillo told KVEO that part of the reason for an increased number of people in the ICU isn’t even COVID-19 related.
Hospitals are now:
“seeing people get in the hospital having delayed seeking medical care until they absolutely have no choice.”
People waiting to get help means their condition is usually “much worse” once they get to the hospital. Those people do get sent right to the ICU, another added stress to the already taxed hospitals.
“The hospitals can create more beds, they can get more beds, but what they can’t do is easily get more staff,” said Dr. Castillo.
People who are worried about possibly catching COVID-19 at hospitals shouldn’t be as COVID-19 patients are treated on a separate floor to ensure the chance of spreading the disease is as little as possible.
“People should not put off vital medical care until it’s out of control. Definitely, you need to get things taken care of before they get out of control,” said Dr. Castillo.