Houston Health Care Near Breaking Point’; Will Schools Defy Gov?

Houston area officials say the latest wave of COVID-19 cases is pushing the local health care system to nearly “a breaking point,” resulting in some patients having to be transferred out of the city to get medical care, including one who had to be taken to North Dakota.

The rising tide of cases has area schools looking at embracing a mask mandate, despite explicit orders against such a step by the governor.

Dr. David Persse, who is health authority for the Houston Health Department and EMS medical director, said some ambulances were waiting hours to offload patients at Houston area hospitals because no beds were available. Persse said he feared this would lead to prolonged respond times to 911 medical calls.

“The health care system right now is nearly at a breaking point … For the next three weeks or so, I see no relief on what’s happening in emergency departments,” Persse said Thursday.

The rising hospitalization and positivity rate in the Houston area prompted Houston Independent School District Superintendent Millard House II on Thursday to announce that he plans to ask the school board during its meeting next week to approve a mandate requiring all students, teachers and staff to wear masks. Classes in the Houston school district, the state’s largest, begin Aug. 23.

“We know that we’re going to get pushback for this,” House said. “If we have an opportunity to save one life, it’s what we should be doing.”

If approved, the mask mandate would go against an executive order Gov. Greg Abbott repeated last month banning such mandates by any state, county or local government entity.

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