Dr. Joseph Varon (right) and Jeffrey Ndove (left) perform a hypothermia treatment procedure on a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit on Christmas Eve at United Memorial Medical Center December 24, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

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DALLAS – Texas hospitals are suspending voting and reaching out to 2,500 health workers from other states to tackle a surge in Covid cases as younger and healthier patients who haven’t been vaccinated against the days of treatment of the virus crowd.

The state is preparing for its most aggressive fight to date against the coronavirus as the Delta variant spreads across the country, hitting states with low vaccination rates and relaxed public health measures, particularly in the south and the Midwest.

Covid cases in the Lone Star State have exploded in the past few weeks. Texas averaged about 15,419 new cases per day on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, up 34% from a week ago and more than double the seven-day average of 6,762 two weeks ago.

“What is worrying about the development is that the number of cases is growing much faster,” said Dr. Trish Perl, director of the infectious diseases division at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“We are seeing unvaccinated people who are younger than they were earlier in the pandemic, when we saw many hospitalizations over 65,” said Perl. “Now 18- to 49-year-olds are the biggest and highest gains, and many of these people have no underlying medical conditions.”

The spike in cases comes as Republican Governor Greg Abbott wages war on local school and government officials who reintroduced masked mandates, threatening $ 1,000 fines for communities and officials who oppose him. He initially banned local mask mandates in an implementing ordinance of 18

The second order also prohibited all public and private entities, government agencies, from requiring individuals to be vaccinated or to provide evidence of vaccination.

Local officials across Texas are defying state leaders and turning to the courts to challenge Abbott.

A person will receive the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, USA on Thursday, February 11, 2021.

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A district judge in Bexar County, home of San Antonio, on Tuesday issued an injunction against Abbott’s mask ban, which allowed local officials to restore mandates and other emergency orders to combat the Delta variant.

About 300 miles north, the Dallas Independent School District issued a temporary mask requirement for all counties on Monday.

Clay Jenkins, a Dallas County Democrat, followed suit with a new mask mandate for schools, businesses and county buildings Wednesday after a local judge issued an injunction preventing Abbott from enforcing his ban.

Abbott has vowed to fight the restraining orders. In a joint press release with Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, the two said they are relying on personal responsibility to protect “the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”

“Attention-grabbing judges and mayors opposed orders from the very beginning of the pandemic, and the courts ruled on our side – the law,” Paxton said in the statement. “I am confident that the outcome of all lawsuits will come with freedom and individual choice, not mandates and government abuse.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, said he was weighing a citywide mask mandate when “the science, the data, and the doctors tell us this has to be something to keep the community safe”.

“Local school districts should be able to make this decision themselves in order to offer their children the best possible protection,” Adler said in an interview with CNBC on July 28th.

“I haven’t heard any scientific or data-driven rationale for policies that do not allow the enforcement of masking to protect public health,” Adler said, adding that he “strongly recommends that all children in schools wear” masks, and that teachers and guests at school do the same. “

Meanwhile, hospital stays continue to rise. Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston and St. Luke’s Hospital in nearby Woodlands have set up overflow tents outside to cope with the influx of patients, most of whom local officials say are unvaccinated. Texas lags behind the US in vaccinations, with 53.6% of the total population receiving at least one vaccination, compared with 58.9% nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A construction team is working to pitch tents hospital officials plan to pitch with an overflow of COVID-19 patients outside Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston on Monday, August 9, 2021.

Godofredo A. Vásquez | Houston Chronicle via AP

Abbott asked the Texas Hospital Association earlier this week to postpone voluntary medical procedures to free up beds in the intensive care unit, and said the state is hiring 2,500 medical staff outside of the state to relieve exhausted doctors and nurses.

“This help couldn’t come quickly enough. Many hospitals have already shut down non-essential services and are rerouting patients to add staff, ”Ted Shaw, president of the Texas Hospital Association, said in a statement Tuesday. “The hospital industry is losing frontline staff, especially nurses, to burnout and illness; many left the profession due to the extreme nature of the work during a relentless pandemic.”

More than 90% of all intensive care beds in Texas were occupied on Wednesday, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, with around 40% dedicated to Covid patients as of Wednesday.

While cases and deaths across the country have receded from their record highs in January, they’re on the rise again – but much faster in Texas. The state’s death toll is also rising, with a seven-day average of 57 daily Covid deaths on Monday, 36% more than last week, but below the record average of more than 341 deaths per day in late January 2021 data, according to Hopkins.

“It’s honestly heartbreaking. There is this feeling that they are invincible, but that’s not true, we are seeing seriously ill people,” said Perl of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. She said vaccinations are “the absolute best defense”.

Editor’s note: Nate Ratner and Robert Towey reported from New York and New Jersey, respectively.