“If the county explodes (with sharply increasing COVID-19 patient numbers) ... are we ready?” Councilwoman Gloria Harris asked city health authority Dr. Brooke Dorotik during Monday night’s council session.

The answer? “As ready as we can be.”

Houston area hospitals are not currently accepting COVID-19 patients from outside the metroplex area, according to Dorotik.

Wharton County falls into Department of Health Services Trauma Service Area Q which covers 10 counties including most of the Houston area. For roughly 6.7 million people in the area, there are currently 169 available ICU beds and 1,338 ventilators, according to DSHS. As of Monday, 1,767 COVID-19 patients were being hospitalized.

El Campo Memorial has four of those ICU beds and is currently housing between seven and 11 COVID-19 patients, Dorotik told council.

“We are the only hospital in our county,” Harris said, slowly listing the towns and communities it serves, roughly 42,000 throughout the county. 

“That’s a lot of people,” she said. “Council should take control since we know the situation.”

Monday, city council put into place a mask order effective at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, July 2 (please see related story).

Harris added, “I’ve been here 76 years, and I know if you don’t have some rules (and fine) people won’t do it.” The councilwoman likened the situation to seeing a speed limit sign and opting to ignore it. 

“Until I get a ticket or a warning, I’m still going to speed.”

ECMH typically has 35 patient room beds and is licensed for 49 beds. In time of crisis, staff can expand capacity temporarily to double that.

Should the number of patients suffering from the virus sharply increase, patients could be housed together, for example, to increase capacity, Dorotik said.

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