Hospital CEO on spike in COVID-19 cases: The virus has moved to the under 50 crowd

Houston Methodist Hospital CEO Marc Boom said on CNBC’s Squawk Box Monday that the spike in coronavirus cases in Texas is hitting the under-50 age group the hardest. This is a complete “flip” from earlier stages of the coronavirus pandemic.


His message is in line with Governor Abbott and Vice-President Pence, who over the weekend encouraged Texans to step up individual efforts and do all they can to stop the spike. Dr. Boom is a member of COVID-19 response in the Texas Medical Center and one from whom Governor Abbott looks for guidance.

“We are definitely seeing this affect young people, and they’re getting quite ill,” Houston Methodist CEO Dr. Marc Boom said on “Squawk Box.” “So we really need everybody to do their part.”

About 60% of the Covid-19 patients currently in the eight-hospital system are under the age of 50, Boom said. “It has completely flipped” from the earlier stages of the crisis, when about 40% were under 50, he added.

Before the spike, about 1 in 5 intensive care beds went to patients under 50 years of age. Now it is 1 in 3 beds. As we know, parts of Texas are coronavirus hot spots and the governor has scaled back on the re-opening plan that the state was following. He put the brakes on much of Stage 3, sliding back into Stage 2 territory.

Common thought on the virus is that it affects younger people less than senior citizens or people who have underlying health conditions. This new increase among the under-50 crowd can have broader consequences. The younger patients will likely spread the coronavirus back to older people, thus death rates may go up. It should be noted that though younger patients are being admitted to hospitals and being diagnosed with COVID-19, deaths have not spiked along with positivity rates. Younger people, while becoming very ill in many cases, continue to have a good chance of surviving the virus. There are still only very few patients in ICU in this age group. The problem continues to be that this virus is quickly spread between people.


Boom said another difference among Covid-19 patients at Houston Methodist’s hospitals is that fewer are needing to go to an ICU bed. “Even though we have about 200 more patients in house, about double, we only have about three or four more people in the ICU, so that’s encouraging.”

As of now, according to Boom, Houston Methodist has the necessary capacity to handle the Covid-19 outbreak, echoing similar comments on CNBC Friday from Dr. David Callender, CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston.

However, the virus has not yet been contained in the Houston area, Boom stressed, saying it is “spreading rapidly.”

It makes sense that people under 50 are now being diagnosed with the coronavirus since this group would likely be the ones out socializing as the state re-opened. They are the ones frequenting the bars and restaurants and other public spaces where people gather in larger groups. Other than going to church, you have to figure it is those under 50 who are more aggressively enjoying relaxed lockdown. There is a video circulating from Saturday night which shows that despite Governor Abbott’s order to shut down bars and for restaurants to go back to 50% capacity, a large crowd was gathered at a club. The patrons were not abiding by the county judge’s mandate on wearing a facial mask.

The video was taken at Spire Night Club in downtown Houston. A woman with a mask is seen walking across, but others around her in the video aren’t wearing face coverings.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s mandatory mask order went into effect last week, which required all residents over the age of 10 to wear face coverings inside businesses, but the video making rounds on social media showed otherwise and has made people upset.

Carson Zoch, who posted the video on Twitter, wrote, “Imagine prioritizing your ‘social life’ over peoples actual lives. This isn’t about you anymore, you are putting others at risk.”


So much for staying at home whenever possible. The owner of the club pushed back on critics saying his business is registered as a restaurant. There is also a lawsuit coming down the pike from bar and nightclub owners who are upset about the re-closing orders from the governor.

ABC13 spoke with one of the owners of Spire. The owner said the nightclub opened up because they are registered as a restaurant. Restaurants were part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to scale back to 50% capacity.

Gov. Abbott ordered the closing of all bars and scaled back restaurant capacity in Texas on Friday after the state experienced a 3-day in a row record high of COVID-19 cases.

On Sunday, the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance announced they’ll sue the state.

In a statement, they call Gov. Abbott’s order, “discrimination. Frustrated by the fact that big box stores, salons, restaurants and gyms don’t have to close.”

In Michigan, the problems with bars during a pandemic became apparent after one bar re-opened and 85 coronavirus cases have been traced back to it. It is described as a college bar and the patrons are generally young people. The good news is that at the time of diagnosis, none of the young people had been hospitalized.


The health department asked everyone who had visited the bar, even those who have tested negative, to self-quarantine for 14 days, “self-monitor for symptoms and distance themselves from other household contacts like family and roommates.”

“Given the number of cases in this outbreak, we consider this a higher risk exposure than a typical visit to a restaurant or bar,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “There are likely more people infected with COVID-19 not yet identified. We need help from people who went to Harper’s during the exposure dates so that we can contain the outbreak. We need everyone exposed to stay home.”

Harper’s Restaurant & Brew Pub saw large crowds after reopening on June 8, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The bar closed voluntarily on June 22 to add air purifying to its HVAC system and figure out how to keep people properly socially distanced, according to Harper’s and the Ingham County Health Department. Inspectors from the health department had found found Harper’s was “following appropriate safety procedures related to employees, restaurant capacity and table spacing.”

Like in Texas, Michigan business owners are finding the road back to re-opening is a bumpy one. The Michigan bar owner said the bar was abiding by the 50% occupancy rule yet the “extraordinary exuberant response to our re-opening has been beyond our expectations.” Holding to the occupancy numbers in establishments is tricky when so many people are eager to get out and socialize after a lockdown.


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