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Texas Medical Association warns of hospital surge without masks, social distancing

An infectious disease specialist said COVID-19 cases are on a "geometric" rise across the state and it's not due to testing but infections.

AUSTIN, Texas — Infectious disease specialist. Dr. Charles Lerner is sounding the alarm.

Lerner sits on the Texas Medical Association's COVID-19 Task Force. He predicts hospitals in Texas will soon be overwhelmed, if, we don't aggressively tackle the coronavirus and flatten the curve.

"And when you get overwhelmed, then people die without care," Dr. Lerner said.

It's a message that gets your attention. 

He said if we don't wear masks now, and not just inside businesses but anytime you can't social distance at least six feet, then hospitals will get overrun with COVID-19 patients soon.

Dr. Lerner said it will be a repeat of what doctors saw in New York City and Milan, Italy.

"Where there won't be enough hospital beds for somebody who is sick. So if you have a heart attack or you're in a motor vehicle accident, you'll be put on cots because there won't be any beds," Dr. Lerner said.

Credit: Dennis Thomas
Dr. Charles Lerner

Austin leaders have said there are enough hospital beds, for now.

Austin and the state have an emergency surge plan in place with alternate locations if hospitals run out of beds, like back up medical facilities. 

In an interview on KVUE Midday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler expressed his concern about rising COVID-19 cases.

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"I fear it's going to double in the next couple of weeks and as that happens, we could very well run out of the kind of hospital capacity, we could have more people there than available spots. In that case, we will have to surge, we're going to potentially have to open up alternate locations. We're working with the hospitals right now to try to get some real definitive numbers here locally," the mayor said.

According to Austin Public Health, the largest number of new cases between June 8 and June 23, is in the age group of 20 to 29, a big concern for Dr. Lerner.

"The one thing I've told people is that if you want your parents and your grandparents, check your wedding or the birth of your child because, otherwise, you'll have to visit them at the cemetery," said Dr. Lerner.

Dr. Lerner also said he is disappointed that Gov. Greg Abbott didn't mandate a mask order on Monday.

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