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Laredo Requires Hospital Transfers After Local Hospitalization Rate Becomes The Highest In Texas

A bed in the emergency room at University Hospital in San Antonio.
Eileen Pace | TPR News
A bed in the emergency room at University Hospital in San Antonio.

Under a new public health order signed Monday, Laredo hospitals must transfer some patients when the city’s total hospitalization rate rises to 25% or higher.

The order comes as the Laredo hospital region reported Texas’ highest hospitalization rate, or the percentage of COVID-19 patients using staffed hospital beds, for three days in a row.

On Saturday, officials reported that the hospitalization rate, which reflects hospital capacity from one day prior, rose to 31.6% on Friday. The rate for Saturday peaked at 32.9% and fell back to 31% on Sunday.

On Monday, Laredo Health Authority Victor Trevño said hospitals had little or no capacity in intensive care units and limited space in med-surge units, areas designated for non-ICU patients.

“However, not enough to handle any surge that’s expected throughout the holidays,” he said during a Monday press briefing. “And this is also concerning since the seven-day positivity is 15%."

The positivity rate is the percentage of people who test positive for COVID-19. Laredo reported 112 new positive tests on Monday, amounting to a total of 22,971 since March.

To create a 5% to 15% buffer within ICU and med-surge units, Treviño ordered hospitals to transfer some patients to step-down facilities, alternate care sites, in-home treatment and hospitals outside of the city with assistance from the state. He said local hospitals will not deny treatment or services to any patients.

This is the latest effort to address patient overflows at local hospitals.

Some Laredo patients have already been transferred to hospitals in San Antonio, although officials worried hospitals there wouldn’t take any more transfers. Officials have since begun working with hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi for transfers.

Last week, Laredo’s city council approved and extended Mayor Pete Saenz’s overnight curfew on social gatherings. The curfew only applies to social gatherings outside of businesses from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. and is expected to be in effect until Jan. 19.

Laredo Fire Chief and Emergency Management Coordinator Guillermo Heard said they’re beginning to see the surge from Thanksgiving gatherings and asked people to continue to wear a mask and social distance.

“We continue to be above 30%,” he said. “I know over the weekend we were one, number one in the state, and that just makes us remind the public that all those simple measures that we do, do make a difference.”

María Méndez can be reached at maría@tpr.org or on Twitter at @anxious_maria