Texas scientist says the state is facing a 'humanitarian catastrophe,' which will worsen without immediate and aggressive social distancing
As the fifth worst-hit state in the United States, Texas has reported at least 128,132 cases of the coronavirus and 2,270 deaths, as of Thursday. The state is grappling with a surge in new cases and confirmed 5,489 new infections on Tuesday alone. Dr. Peter Hotez, who is working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, said the situation unfolding in Texas is a "humanitarian catastrophe," and described the country' response to the pandemic as "one of the biggest public health failings in the history of the US." Hotez said Texas has no time to waste and must immediately "implement a significant level of social distancing" before the weekend. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Coronavirus cases across Texas are spiking, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott to ask residents to stay home as much as possible. A month ago, Abbott defended reopening the state because its death and hospitalization rates were lower than in other similarly sized states. As of Thursday, the US has confirmed more than 2.38 million cases and 122,000 deaths. As the fifth worst-hit state, Texas has reported 128,132 cases and 2,270 deaths, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On Tuesday alone, 5,489 new cases were reported in the state, which Abbott described as a "massive outbreak" and Dr. Peter Hotez, who is working on developing a COVID-19 vaccine, called "absolutely horrifying." Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Houston Chronicle he is "terribly upset" at the surge in coronavirus cases. He said some models had predicted this trend, which is why he "didn't want Texas to open up as early it did." Now that the cases are climbing, though, Texas has no time to lose. "We have to implement a significant level of social distancing, Now, we have no choice," Hotez told the Chronicle. "We have to take action before the weekend. At the minimum, we must focus on the metropolitan areas: Houston, San Antonio, and Austin." But Abbott told local CBS affiliate KFDAearlier this week that "closing down Texas again will always be the last option." Houston is on track to become the worst-hit city in the US
Meanwhile, Hotez told ABC13 that Houston, which is located in hardest-hit Harris County, is on the verge of becoming the most impacted city in the country. He reiterated that to the Chronicle, saying, "We are already reaching a dire health crisis in Houston, and it will only get worse." Asked about Rep. Pete Olson of Texas calling the situation in Houston "damn scary," Hotez replied, "I think the congressman has been reading my social media page. That unfortunately is the situation we may be in, unless we do something. The default plan if we don't do anything is that the cases rise until we reach herd immunity. Those numbers would continue to rise vertically." According to Hotez, the situation in Houston, where state health data show that at least 15,266 people have tested positive for COVID-19, counts as a "red alert for coronavirus threat level." "Six months into this epidemic, and we're basically to square one," Hotez told the Chronicle. Hotez told the BBC that Texas is facing a "humanitarian catastrophe"and underscored the need to act quickly to curb the severity of this public health crisis. "Nationally, this is one of the biggest public health failings in the history of the US," he told the Chronicle. "We have a vaccine that we are hoping to advance this time next year. This pandemic is not getting better on its own."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown
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'Patients are suffering across the board': A Texas ER doctor said hospitals are getting overwhelmed with patients of varying causes as the state gets battered by coronavirus outbreaks
Dr. Natasha Kathuria, an emergency medicine physician with expertise in public health and epidemiology, has been...Dr. Natasha Kathuria, an emergency medicine physician with expertise in public health and epidemiology, has been treating patients at the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Based in Austin, Texas, she described how doctors in the six different ERs where she works have become overrun with both coronavirus and non-coronavirus patients. The ER doctor said the record-high coronavirus case counts don't portray "an accurate picture" of the situation in the state, as families and hospital staff feel not only the devastating impact of COVID-19 outbreaks but also patients who die of other causes. "It's not just, 'We've got a lot of COVID-19, and everyone's dying of COVID-19,'" Kathuria said. "Patients with cancer are not getting their cancer surgery, patients who are delivering children in the hospital and not being able to feel comfortable that they're not at risk for COVID." She emphasized the importance of showing how overwhelmed hospitals are in hopes to make it a higher priority to get a more cohesive and rapid coronavirus testing and contact tracing infrastructure in place. Until then, Kathuria said she hopes that people put aside political beliefs and become more unified in their response to the virus, at least until the coronavirus becomes more manageable. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. An ER doctor in Texas described the devastating impact of coronavirus outbreaks in the state, emphasizing that not only are COVID-19 patients suffering but patients "across the board." Dr. Natasha Kathuria, an emergency medicine physician with expertise in public health and epidemiology, told Business Insider that as the wave of coronavirus cases slams the state, hospitals are getting overwhelmed treating all types of cases. "It's not just, 'We've got a lot of COVID-19, and everyone's dying of COVID-19,'" Kathuria said. "Patients with cancer are not getting their cancer surgery, patients who are delivering children in the hospital and not being able to feel comfortable that they're not at risk for COVID." "We have a higher proportion of sick patients coming in than ever before," she continued. "Before, we would have plenty of non-sick patients who were just simple cases that we treat and discharge, treat and discharge." Based in Austin, Texas, Kathuria works in six different ERs throughout the state, treating patients of all kinds at the front lines. As doctors become overwhelmed with patients, she said they're forced into "just doing the basics, just trying to keep people alive as long as we can." "People died of avoidable, preventable causes of death, and that's what we were trying to avoid," she added. As of Thursday, Texas has nearly 531,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in the state, and the state death toll has surpassed 9,700. Earlier this week, the positivity rate in testing soared to 24.5% of tests, according to state data. But Kathuria stressed that there is more to the devastating effects of the coronavirus in Texas than the record-high case counts, which display a substantial number of excess deaths — or the number of deaths between the projected number and observed. Last week, the US saw 3.4% to 7.2% excess deaths across all causes, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excess death rates went as high as 17% across the US as the coronavirus battered states along the Sun Belt. Even then, she said excess death rate may not even take into account coronavirus-related deaths due to the lack of quick, reliable COVID-19 testing. "We don't know if these excess deaths that maybe were never diagnosed with COVID-19 or COVID-19-related," Kathuria told Business Insider. "Maybe they had COVID-19, and we couldn't test them for it, or they died at home, or they died at the ER where we weren't going to be able to test them while they're coding." (Coding refers to patients who are going into cardiopulmonary arrest.) "It's a tough battle to really get an accurate picture," she said, "And that's why it's really important to really present the whole picture of how our healthcare system is doing, and it's not doing well." Kathuria said she and her colleagues are "terrified" of the upcoming flu season as it overlaps with the coronavirus pandemic. She expressed concern that if fewer people are inclined to get a flu vaccine in the fall due to "conspiracy theories and concerns about vaccinations that have been disproven," the US could see a flu season that is "way worse than before." "They [influenza and the coronavirus] present very similarly from the beginning, so separating them will be very difficult if we still don't have the capability of doing rapid COVID testing in the ER, just like we can do with influenza," she said. "So we really need to ramp up rapid testing, and I'm not talking about these tests that come back in like seven to 10 days that don't really do much for prevention of spreading this virus on a large scale." Better testing and contact tracing methods will go a long way towards managing the virus, Kathuria said, though without a proper national testing and tracing infrastructure, the consequences could be — and have been — deadly. "We're not looking to make COVID-19 go away in 2020. We actually don't know how long it may be here, maybe forever," she said. "But what we're trying to do is manage it. We've been doing this for decades with influenza, malaria ... and Zika virus." "We know how to manage infectious diseases when they are manageable, but when they are no longer manageable — meaning our hospital systems and our healthcare system gets overrun and overburdened with the disease — everybody suffers." She cited the politicization of the virus as one of the key reasons why the pandemic has been polarizing public health efforts and diversifying public opinion of the virus as a whole. "Political beliefs run very deep in everybody... but what we're worried about is that it's actually going to affect our normal public health measures," Kathuria told Business Insider. "That's why these policy changes — the importance of wearing masks, limiting mass gatherings — all of these things are so crucial just to get us across the finish line." In a recent visit to El Paso, Gov. Greg Abbott implored Texans to wear masks and practice social distancing, and stay at home if they can, adding that he understands that the task can be "a challenge," but "a once in a lifetime challenge." Kathuria echoed a similar sentiment, saying that these strict health safety measures are "not a forever thing." "We just need to keep this manageable, but we need everyone on the same page," she said.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown
WHO says 1m cases reported per week for last five weeks; Florida’s infections overtake New York’s;...WHO says 1m cases reported per week for last five weeks; Florida’s infections overtake New York’s; North Korea holds emergency meeting after suspected Covid-19 case reportedUK foreign minister defends 14-day quarantine for travellers from SpainTexas hospital forced to set up ‘death panel’ as Covid-19 cases surgeVictoria records 459 new coronavirus cases and 10 deaths in Australia’s deadliest day in pandemicSee all our coronavirus coverage 1.06pm BST Spain’s foreign ministry has insisted the coronavirus epidemic is under control, after the British government imposed a 14-day quarantine on all travellers returning from the country in response to a surge in new cases there.Hospitals are coping well with the increase in infections and more than half of new cases are asymptomatic, the ministry said, adding that outbreaks in Catalonia and Aragon should soon be brought under control. 1.05pm BST Vietnam has reported two more locally-transmitted cases of Covid-19, bringing the number of infections in the country to 420.The country has not reported any coronavirus-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Continue reading...
The escalating crisis in Texas shows how the chronic underfunding of public health has put America...The escalating crisis in Texas shows how the chronic underfunding of public health has put America on track for the worst coronavirus response in the developed world.