COVID-19 cases increasing at highest rate yet in Galveston County

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

As the economy continues to restart and businesses have begun to reopen, COVID-19 cases are surging in Galveston County, resulting in the highest number of new daily cases since the pandemic began.

During the week of May 3-9, there was a total of 51 new coronavirus cases, or an average of 7.3 cases per day, in Galveston County. From May 10-16, there were 22 new cases in Galveston County for an average of 3.1 per day.

Since then, daily case counts have been slowly growing, which makes sense considering May 1 was the beginning of Texas reopening its economy, Galveston County Local Health Authority Philip Keiser said.

From June 7-13, Galveston County saw 265 new COVID-19 cases—the most the county has seen in a single week since the outbreak began. That is an average of 37.9 a day, which is more new cases than the county saw in a week in early May.

Over the last four days, there have been 249 new cases—18 on June 14, 57 on June 15, 66 on June 16 and a record-breaking 108 on June 17. The higher number of cases is a trend Keiser said could continue for months.

"I think it’s clearly a general lack of social distancing," Keiser said. "Every week we see an increased number of cases. I think people are just not being careful.”

As businesses have reopened, residents have been gathering in close proximity to go to bars, restaurants, stores or the beach. As it stands, the county is under Gov. Greg Abbott's orders when it comes to reopening and cannot do much to quell the surge in cases, Keiser said.

"We really don't have the ability to do a whole heck of a lot more," he said.

While some are washing their hands and wearing masks in public while maintaining distance from others, many are not, contributing to the spike, Keiser said.

"Some are doing it well, and ... some of them just make you cringe,” he said.

Recent protests over police brutality and racial injustice could factor into increasing infection rates in Galveston County, but the county saw fewer protests than Houston and Harris County, where protests are likely a greater contributor to potential case count increases, Keiser said.

Galveston County hospitals have the bed capacity to handle the surge in cases, but that does not mean there will not be challenges, Keiser said.

"It’s enough to cause concern among the hospitals," he said.

One trend the county noticed is a higher concentration of cases in younger people. The highest concentration of cases is in those ages 21 to 30, according to county data.

While young people are not at high risk of dying from COVID-19, they do pose the risk of bringing the coronavirus home to their parents or grandparents, who could die from it, Keiser said.

Many residents are tired of COVID-19, quarantining and social distancing, which is understandable; the economy cannot stay shut down forever, but that does not mean residents should be careless, Keiser said.

If everyone who went out in public wore a mask, the risk of transmission from an infected person to an uninfected person would drop to 1%, and the county would see daily case counts drop, not increase. Keiser cautioned residents to continue to wear masks, wash hands and socially distance.

"I know people are tired of it, but we gotta hang tough," Keiser said.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.



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