Houston health experts say next few months will be rough for 2 reasons

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The start of the new year brings a surge of COVID-19 patients.

"The numbers are staggering of newly-infected people in our community. The numbers are staggering, moving up in our hospitals," said Bill McKeon, president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center.

As those numbers have increased, McKeon says hospitals had already begun reducing their elective surgeries, prior to Gov. Greg Abbott's rollback trigger.

SEE ALSO: Harris County's 7-day high of COVID-19 hospitalizations triggers reopening rollback

"We've been actually titrating down off elective procedures as we've seen this continued growth and pressure on the hospitals across the entire Texas Medical Center," said McKeon.

McKeon anticipates it will be a rough couple of months for two reasons. One reason being, hospitals haven't seen the effects of holiday gatherings yet. The second reason is, a more contagious strain of the virus from the United Kingdom has been found in other states and it's likely to impact Houston.

"We're absolutely preparing for a very tough January and February with this much virus in our community. We're seeing sicker and sicker patients arrive into our hospitals and that's of all ages," he said.

SEE ALSO: SHUT DOWN AGAIN: Bars ordered closed in several SE Texas counties

Knowing this surge could come, they've been preparing, stocking up on personal protective equipment [PPE] and supplies, but there is a staffing challenge.

"The biggest struggle is not on the number of beds, it's the number of talent. The nursing expertise that we need to care for these patients is a very important skill and that's a shortage in this country," said McKeon.

McKeon remains hopeful and says something that will really help is the COVID-19 vaccine.

SEE ALSO: Houston's COVID-19 vaccine clinic fully booked with 750 appointments

"We are moving so quickly to vaccinate as many people as possible and we're doing it throughout the Medical Center. As I said, about 4,000 or 5,000 people are vaccinated every day. We're working with the city and county on a new plan to accelerate that even faster," said McKeon.

Follow Marla Carter on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.