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Austin mom concerned about limited number of ICU beds in Austin area

Mariette Hummel said she was relieved to get the COVID-19 vaccine for herself and her son as health leaders continue reporting a limited number of ICU beds.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin mom Mariette Hummel wasted no time in getting her COVID-19 vaccine. To protect her unborn baby and her family, she knew that was the best option. 

"Pregnant women are also at risk," said Hummel. "Especially when they're unvaccinated. I've heard from my doctors that it can affect your body, your placenta, your baby, differently than a cold or flu."

When her 9-year-old was eligible for the shot, she wasted no time in getting him vaccinated. 

"When he got his first shot, I almost cried," said Hummel. "I mean, I was just so relieved. After all that time."

Because hospitals are seeing so many positive cases, Hummel remains confident she made the right choice. 

"I think the fact that we're back to low hospital and ICU capacity is terrifying, and it's also unnecessary," she added. "We do not have to be at this point right now."

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported Saturday that there is still one adult ICU bed available in the Austin area.

Pediatric ICU beds are also filling up at a rapid rate. As of Saturday, there are five staffed ICU beds in the area. 

"The percent of children who end up in the hospital is not changing a whole lot," said Seth Kaplan, pediatrician. "Thankfully, it is still a very small percentage. But the problem is that when the number of kids who get COVID goes up so much, a small percentage of a much larger number is much larger. And that's going to lead to our hospitals being very full."

In addition to COVID, Kaplan said the seasonal flu is also filling up hospital beds.

"We're also seeing the rise of influenza right now," said Kaplan. "Which also will put a fair number of kids in the hospital along with some of the other winter respiratory viruses. So this is a very challenging time for our hospitals to keep up with that volume of sick children."

Douglas Havron, who oversees hospital operations in the Austin area, said it's hard to keep up with all the positive cases when there are severe staffing shortages. 

"The bottom line is, if you need the emergency department, they are there to serve you," said Havron. "But, do expect when you visit there will be a very busy emergency department. There will be limitations on visitors and do be prepared for very long wait times if you do require admission."

Since wait times are long, Hummel rests in the fact she's vaccinated.

"Seeing that risk decrease is just really, really comforting to us," said Hummel.

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