KEY POINTS

  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warns hospitals in his city might give way under a flood of new COVID-19 patients
  • The main problem facing the city is a shortage of medical personnel
  • "Our hospitals could be in serious, serious trouble," he said

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) warned Sunday his city's overstretched hospitals stand to be overwhelmed within two weeks by the unending flood of new and seriously ill COVID-19 patients unless help arrives.

He made an urgent appeal for more doctors and healthcare workers to assist his hard-hit city, whose case load now is 1.3 times higher than what it was last week. He identified the dearth of healthcare staff as his most pressing problem.

The city of Houston, the fourth most populous in the U.S., had 22,884 cases as of Fourth of July, said the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). It accounted for 21% of all cases in the Greater Houston Area, which stood at 55,899. There were also 669 deaths in the Greater Houston Area.

Turner said if Houston can't get its hands around COVID-19 quickly, "our hospitals could be in serious, serious trouble."

"The major problem is staffing … we can always provide additional beds, but we need the people, the nurses and everybody else in the medical profession to staff those beds," said Turner on CBS' “Face the Nation.

In making his appeal, Turner sounded much like New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) did on March 16 when Cuomo warned his state’s healthcare system might be overwhelmed by a wave of new cases in the succeeding weeks. When Cuomo made this statement, New York was beset by around 3,000 confirmed cases and 21 deaths.

But for Turner right now, Houston's healthcare system is faced by an exponential increase in the number of people contracting the disease and going to hospitals.

"The number of people in our ICU beds has exponentially increased,” revealed Turner.

The mayor also said the city's positivity tests had skyrocketed to nearly 25%. He said people of color were being disproportionately hit by the disease, particularly Hispanics.

Turner called COVID-19 “an equal opportunity abuser.” He said the disease is hitting "anyone from their 20s into their 90s being impacted.”

He warned Houstonians to maintain social distancing.

“If you come together in close proximity you will fuel this virus,” he said.

The surge in COVID-19 cases throughout Texas has forced Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) to halt the state’s reopening. Abbott ordered bars to close and restaurants to limit capacity.

On July 2, Abbott issued an executive order mandating face coverings in public spaces. He also allowed local officials to impose restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people.

A medical worker rests in front of a fan in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas A medical worker rests in front of a fan in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas Photo: GETTY IMAGES / Go Nakamura