The Texas Medical Center scrubbed data showing ICU beds at full capacity as the state's coronavirus cases spike

insider@insider.com (Isaac Scher)
·3 min read
Nurses set up oxygen equipment for a newly arrived COVID-19 patient in the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, on May 6, 2020.
Nurses set up oxygen equipment for a newly arrived COVID-19 patient in the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, on May 6, 2020.

Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

  • The Texas Medical Center removed crucial data from its website on Sunday that showed its ICU beds at full capacity, the Houston Chronicle first reported.

  • The move was temporary, a spokesperson said: "After the events of this week, everyone realized the capacity question was complicated and misunderstood. So new slides are being made that better explain."

  • Coronavirus cases in Texas are surging, and may soon put ICUs at "unsustainable" capacity.

  • Just two states, Connecticut and Rhode Island, are seeing a decline in infections. 

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On Sunday, the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston, the largest medical complex in the world, scrubbed data from its website showing how beds in its intensive care units were at capacity, along with other data about coronavirus infections in the state.

The move came as the area is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases, and hospitals around the state are scrambling to increase their ICU capacities.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the data was deleted from the website after a conversation between hospital administrators and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who expressed displeasure at the metrics on the website. Most of the charts with hospital data were restored and modified after the Chronicle story ran.

More than half of the state's hospitalizations for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, have occured in the last two weeks, Newsweek reported. Days before the TMC removed ICU-bed data, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Houston hospitals to stop conducting elective surgeries, a space-saving measure for COVID-19 patients. He also put statewide reopening plans on pause.

A TMC spokesperson told NBC News reporter Mike Hixenbaugh that the data was removed only temporarily.

"After the events of this week, everyone realized the capacity question was complicated and misunderstood," the spokesperson said on Sunday. "So new slides are being made that better explain. That's all it is."

The TMC had no empty ICU beds by Thursday, KHOU 11, a local media outlet, reported. Its ICU capacity is usually between 70% and 80% of its total stock.

By late last week, the medical center had hit a "sustainable surge capacity." If the hospitalization rate continues at the same pace for the next two weeks, the TMC will reach an "unsustainable surge capacity," according to charts from the TMC's website.

In Houston alone, hospitalizations have nearly tripled over the past month, and infections are spreading apace across the state. 

"Over just the past few weeks, the daily number of cases have gone from an average of about 2,000, to more than 5,000," Abbott told reporters on Sunday, by which time the statewide infection count stood at 150,200 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Texas's coronavirus trend is not unique: Infections are skyrocketing across southern and southwestern states, according to Johns Hopkins University. And Connecticut and Rhode Island are the only two states where coronavirus cases are declining.

Some states are experiencing surges so pronounced that their medical facilities may not be able to handle the new cases. 

"We've reached a point in communities throughout Arizona, Texas and Florida where the epidemic is accelerating at an alarming pace and may quickly overwhelm local health care systems—signaling a need to pause reopening plans," David Rubin, director of PolicyLab and a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, told Business Insider

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