Newswise — Areas of Harris County, Texas, where residents are most at risk for hospitalization and critical care needs due to COVID-19 have been mapped for the first time by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center of Houston (UTHealth).

Drawing on evidence from research published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the study team at UTHealth School of Public Health was able to identify risk factors for hospitalization and critical care in the Houston area, and map them, based on the 2018 Health of Houston Survey.

According to the fact sheet, Harris County areas that include East Little York-Settegast, Deer Park-Channel View, and Downtown-East End have the highest concentrations of residents over the age of 60 or with chronic diseases and are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19. These residents are the most likely to require hospitalization. Those over age 65 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, or diabetes are at high risk of critical illness from COVID-19, requiring hospitalization as well as access to intensive care and ventilators. These areas include Deer Park-Channel View, East Little York-Settegast, and Humble-Atascocita.

“The report identifies areas in Greater Houston where hospital resources may need to be reallocated or enhanced to meet demand in order to save lives, which Gov. Greg Abbott calls surge capacity,” said Stephen H. Linder, PhD, professor and director of the Institute for Health Policy at UTHealth School of Public Health, who led the report. “This information could assist health authorities in deciding where increased hospital capacity will be needed, assuming the disease spreads across Harris County.”

Linder said an increase in resources could include initiatives such as “pop-up” or makeshift hospitals, similar to what was built in Wuhan, China, and what U.S. hotspots, such as Seattle, California and New York State, are now considering.

For the report, the team, which included School of Public Health faculty associates Dritana Marko, MD, and Thomas Reynolds, PhD, first identified residents over 60 and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, and then considered the smaller group of those over 65 who have one or more of the three conditions associated with the most severe outcomes. The 38 areas in Harris County used in the mapping were defined by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010 as public use microdata areas.   

The population of older, at-risk residents most likely to need hospitalization are color-coded as red on the first map, and include the following Greater Houston areas:

  • 20.2% East Little York-Settegast
  • 17.4% Deer Park-Channel View
  • 15.3% Downtown-East End
  • 13.7% South Acres Home-Northline
  • 13.5% Central Southwest-COH Fort Bend
  • 13.5% Humble-Atascocita
  • 12.2% Galena Park-Jacinto City
  • 13.1% Spring Valley-COH West
  • 12.7% Kingwood-Lake Houston
  • 12.6% Carverdale-Fairbanks/NW Crossing

On the second map, those who are most at risk of needing critical care are color-coded as red, and include the following Houston areas:

  • 14.2% Deer Park-Channel View
  • 11.9% East Little York-Settegast
  • 9.6% Humble-Atascocita
  • 8.3% Central Southwest-COH Fort Bend
  • 6.9% Spring-The Woodlands
  • 6.8% Downtown-East End
  • 6.7% Kingwood-Lake Houston

For the complete report, visit the Health of Houston website.

Journal Link: New England Journal of Medicine