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More people in Texas are hospitalized for COVID-19 than at any other time during the pandemic 

click to enlarge A surgical nurse prepares a COVID-19 patient for a procedure in an intensive care unit. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / US NAVY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 2ND CLASS SARA ESHLEMAN
  • Wikimedia Commons / US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman
  • A surgical nurse prepares a COVID-19 patient for a procedure in an intensive care unit.
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported Monday a pandemic high 11,351 hospitalizations from COVID-19.

This surpasses the previous all-time high of 10,893, which occurred on July 22.

The record comes in the midst of a holiday season public health experts worry could exacerbate the already rapidly spreading virus and following an increase in cases weeks after Thanksgiving.

This hospital data does not account for people who are hospitalized but have not gotten a positive test, and DSHS says some hospitals may be missing from the daily counts. As of Monday, the state is also reporting 49 deaths from COVID-19, a lagging indicator of the extent of transmission rates, and more than 12,800 new confirmed COVID-19 cases. Reported cases may have appeared lower the last few days because some local health departments did not report data to the state over the holiday week.

Earlier this month, Texas' ICU capacity was already the lowest since the start of the pandemic, leaving health care experts worried hospitals could be pushed to the brink as coronavirus cases continue to climb. Across the state, COVID-19 patients occupy 17.8% of the state's hospital beds, and only 745 staffed ICU beds are still available.

At a press conference Monday, Mark Escott, Austin's interim medical director and health authority, said that this week alone, “ICU utilization” is up 62% in Travis County and that hospital beds could become scarce in a matter of weeks.

“Our projections forward into the new year continue to look worse and worse day after day,” Escott said. “I think right now it appears we’re going to enter 2021 in a state of emergency.”

Meanwhile, health care workers at big and small hospitals have started receiving the vaccine across the state, calling it a “shot of hope” and a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Still, many Texans are wary of receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both of which have received emergency FDA approval after data showed they were each about 95% effective. And Texas has not yet detailed how or when jails and prisons, known hot spots of the coronavirus’ spread, will receive the vaccine.

Julián Aguilar contributed to this report.

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