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Austin-area hospitals are 'much better positioned' than they were at the beginning of the pandemic, doctor says

As of Thursday, the 2,473 staffed beds within the three healthcare systems are 78% occupied.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has seen COVID-19 cases spike recently. 

KVUE checked in with the local healthcare systems about their capacities. 

A spokesperson for Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White and St. David's HealthCare issued this update:

"Currently, the 2,473 staffed beds within all three healthcare systems are 78 percent occupied, and the 483 ICU beds are 84 percent occupied."

KVUE spoke with Dr. Rob Watson, a general surgeon and chief medical officer for the Austin and Hill Country regions with Baylor Scott & White Health. He said the good news is hospitals are "much better positioned" than they were at the beginning of the pandemic. 

"At the onset of all this, we had to move quickly to be able to ensure that we had adequate supplies, both for our providers and our staff to keep them safe, but also medical equipment to take care of patients. And luckily, we were able to do that," said Watson. "And so I think as each sort of wave has come along, we've gotten a little bit better at responding to this." 

Watson said they get updates daily, sometimes even more often, regarding patients in the hospitals and ICUs. He said the updates also include how many have COVID-19 and how many do not. 

"We have a very granular view of what's going on in our facilities so that we can stay prepared for what we think is coming," said Watson. "Now, again, there's still always some element of the unknown. We don't know how big this wave is going to be, but we're in a much, much better position than we were when this initially started."

Watson said it's tough to know what may have caused the increase in case numbers, but he said he thinks "COVID fatigue" played into it. 

"I definitely think as the holidays approach, and we've been socially distanced, we all have a desire to want to be around our family and friends. I think there's a feeling that as long as it's a small gathering of close friends, that surely those friends are healthy and it's OK," said Watson. "But I think we're seeing clearly that the number of cases are going up from those small gatherings with exposure. So I think all of those things are contributing to it."

Watson urged people to get a flu shot. He said the more people stay healthy, the easier it is on hospital capacity. 

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