Missing hospital data from Texas raises questions as state hits record day for COVID-19 cases

As Texas reached a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases July 1, data for individual hospitals or counties is still not available to the public, according to the Texas Tribune

Texas hospitals send daily reports to regional health authorities on the number of available regular beds, ICU beds and ventilators they have. Those authorities then send the figures to the state, which publishes the data for the state as a whole and then broken down into 22 trauma service regions.

But data for individual hospitals or counties is not made available to the public, and only a fraction of the state’s hospitals, cities and counties are providing that information to the public on their own.

A department of state health services spokesperson told the Tribune that hospital-specific figures are not published "because hospitals within trauma service areas coordinate to ensure their communities have necessary care, and because people often cross county lines to get hospital care."

One organization that has shared daily ICU bed information is Houston-based Texas Medical Center, but its data was missing for three days last week after it said its ICU was at 100 percent occupancy June 25 and was on pace to exceed an "unsustainable surge capacity" by July 6. One hospital leader said the delay was due to the complicated nature of data reporting. 

While there is a void of hospital-specific data from Texas, that state's hospital leaders have maintained that there are enough beds and concerns about reaching capacity are overblown. 

But hospital employees are sharing internal memos with reporters that suggest things inside hospitals are not as calm as its executives suggest. Consider this report from the Texas Tribune, which contains memos from several Houston area hospitals. 

"The time to act and time to be alarmed is not when you've hit capacity, but it's much earlier, when you start to see hospitalizations increase at a very fast rate," Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology who leads the University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, told the Tribune. "It is definitely time to take some kind of action. It is time to be alarmed."

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