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Houston hospitals stop reporting COVID-19-related data after reaching base ICU capacity: report

Houston hospitals stop reporting COVID-19-related data after reaching base ICU capacity: report thumbnail

Data released by a major Houston hospital system no longer includes information about the hospital system’s ICU capacity, a change reportedly made just a day after it previously was updated to show the hospitals reaching 100 percent base capacity due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Charts updated daily by the Texas Medical Center, a hospital system with locations in downtown Houston, contained a warning as of Sunday that an “upward trajectory of new daily cases” was continuing, and indicated that the surge in patients to the ICU “supports future ICU resource planning.” However, no indications of when the hospital system would reach capacity were available.

“Currently TMC institutions are able to serve all patients requiring intensive care,” the documents read, alongside a note indicating a 5-percent average growth of coronavirus patients requiring admittance to the ICU. No other information on when the TMC would reach ICU capacity was publicly available.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the data was altered to exclude this information after Saturday’s update indicated that Houston ICUs would reach “unsustainable surge capacity” by July 6.

The Chronicle also reported that the change occurred after a conversation “between Gov. Greg Abbott [R] and hospital executives in which the governor expressed displeasure with negative headlines about ICU capacity.”

A spokesperson for Abbott’s office denied to the Chronicle that the governor’s office had asked for hospitals to provide less data about ICU capacity.

“The governor’s office believes all hospitals should be reporting accurate data to the state and to the public as often as possible,” said the spokesperson. “We demanded more information to share, not less.”

Texas is one of a number of states reporting sharp spikes in new daily numbers of coronavirus cases, and last week moved to slow plans to reopen the state and loosen restrictions on public gatherings.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” Abbott said on Thursday. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”

“I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others,” he added. “The more that we all follow these guidelines, the safer our state will be and the more we can open up Texas for business.”

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