Many Austin hospitals’ intensive care units were packed with COVID-19 patients over the July 4th weekend last year. Austin was in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak that began with Memorial Day weekend at the end of May and lasted all summer. Hospitals witnessed 75 new admissions per day at their height last summer, with 150 people in intensive care units and 110 on ventilators.
It’s a different tale this summer. The Austin metro region has seen an average of nine new admissions per day this week; 61 persons have been hospitalized with COVID-19, 24 have been admitted to area ICUs, and 12 are on ventilators.
It’s not simply the numbers that make this year’s situation so different from last year’s. It’s about who’s becoming sick, who’s in the hospital, and how serious their disease is.
Dr. Brian Metzger, medical director of infectious diseases at St. David’s HealthCare, said: “It’s sort of disturbing what’s going on. The number of cases is still low, but when they do show up, they are quite sick.”
Metzger claims that what he’s witnessing in his ICU matches what his colleagues in Central Texas and elsewhere are reporting.
There are a few COVID-19 patients in the ICU at St. David’s, but they may not be who you assume. One of the patients is a 36-year-old mother who recently gave birth to a child and has been battling COVID-19 for more than a week and is now on a ventilator. Another is a 30-year-old patient, while the other is 29.
In December, one of them had a minor case of COVID-19, but now has a severe case for the second time. They’ve never been immunized. “It’s the youth. It’s people who felt they were young enough to be exempt from COVID’s negative implications,” Metzger said.
COVID-19 has not spread as widely as it did last summer and winter in the Austin area. According to the state health agency, 59.8 percent of Travis County residents aged 12 and up are fully vaccinated.