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Austin, Texas, activated its emergency alert system to warn the public of a “severely worsening COVID-19 situation” as area hospitalizations continue to surge. In an alert sent via text, city authorities wrote “the Covid-19 situation in Austin is dire. Healthcare facilities are open but resources are limited due to a surge in cases.”

Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a press release on Saturday that the situation in the Texas capital is “critical.” Walkes said hospital bed availability and critical care is “extremely limited in our hospital systems, not just for COVID-19 patients, but for anyone who may need treatment.” 

“Our hospitals are severely stressed and there is little we can do to alleviate their burden with the surging cases,” Walkes said. “The public has to act now and help our we will face a catastrophe in our community that could have been avoided.”  

According the Texas Department of Health, there are over 3,400 active cases of COVID-19 in Travis County, where Austin is located. The county returned to Stage 5 COVID-19 restrictions last week, meaning fully vaccinated individuals should wear a mask and those at high-risk with underlying conditions should avoid large gatherings where masks are not required.

Austin-Travis County medics wearing personal protective clothing (PPE), prepare to enter a nursing home on August 05, 2020 in Austin, Texas.

John Moore / Getty Images

Travis County had a 7-day moving average of 78 new hospital admissions and Trauma Service Area O, which includes Travis and several other counties, is at just six ICU beds, according to CBS Austin affiliate KEYE. Local emergency department staff is working on asking the state for financial assistance to help address the dangerous staffing shortage, according to KEYE.

Doctors told KEYE the health care system is being overwhelmed and the staffing shortage is putting anyone with a medical emergency at risk.

“We have seen double and triple our normal volumes on a daily basis,” said Dr. Daniel Roe, the medical director with VIK Complete Care. 

Roe said another factor contributing to the crisis is health care workers leaving the profession. “There is a lot of burnout during the COVID crisis last year and a lot of nurses have left the profession and so because of that we’re in a real crisis,” Roe said. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has resisted implementing statewide safety precautions, and on Thursday, he unveiled an agenda for the special legislative session that ensures students can return to school without mask mandates or vaccination requirements. 

The state health department tweeted last week that Texas is “facing a new wave.”