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ICU beds will fill up fast if COVID-19 cases spike, UT modeling data suggests

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Part of the alternate care site set up at the Austin Convention Center in case hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. (KXAN photo/Alex Caprariello)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — New analysis from the University of Texas at Austin shows that intensive care units could potentially be full by early January if COVID-19 transmission isn’t slowed, Austin Public Health says.

Health officials shared three scenarios by the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium that, based on differing transmission rates, show accelerated ICU capacity levels if the spread isn’t contained.

“The UT modeling data can be impacted by our personal behaviors and collective community action,” said Dr. Mark Escott, APH interim health authority. “Let’s come together to change the projections and choose health this holiday season.”

At the current transmission rate, there’s a 32% chance that COVID-19 patients will cause ICUs to be full at 200 beds by Jan. 7, with the median not reaching 200 by Jan 20. If there’s a spike for a week, the chances of filling up ICUs are greater at 36%, and in that case, the median hitting 200 would happen Jan. 14.

If there’s a two-week spike in transmission, the chances of ICU beds hitting capacity by Jan. 7 grow to 39% and the median would hit 200 by Jan. 11.

The transmission rates used were based off the estimation of the spikes after Thanksgiving, the consortium said.

APH put together a Holiday Safety Guidance page to provide suggestions for ways to celebrate the holidays safely.

“We urge you to think of your family and your friends as you contemplate your holiday plans,” APH Director Stephanie Hayden said. “We want to be able to celebrate many holidays to come and to do that we need to stay home and stay safe this year.”

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