'This is a tough day for Houstonians,' Dr. Peter Hotez says as officials raise alarm around local surge of COVID-19

Dr. Peter Hotez
Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, joined Houston officials' calls for vigilance after an exponential rise in local cases. (Screenshot via HTV)

Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, joined Houston officials' calls for vigilance after an exponential rise in local cases. (Screenshot via HTV)

Houston officials joined calls for additional vigilance against COVID-19 on June 26, coming after the governor's order to roll back reopenings and a stay-at-home advisory from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

"This virus is out of control," Houston recovery czar Marvin Odum said at the press conference, urging residents to practice distancing, wear masks and exercise hygiene.

As of June 25, Harris County had a 7-day rolling average of over 1,200 cases per day, adding about 9,000 cases in one week. Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, who joined the press conference, said the increase was very worrisome.

"This is a tough day for Houstonians to have to roll back the openings ... and we recognize this is a significant hardship," Hotez said. "We really had no choice. The number of cases was going up so dramatically, a vertical rise."

Hotez also said projections suggested leaving the status quo in effect would lead to a three- to four-fold increase in daily case counts in a matter of weeks, leading to increased hospitalizations and deaths in succeeding weeks.

On June 26, the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council reported 92% of base-level intensive care unit beds were occupied in Harris County, with one-third in use by a COVID-19 patient. While COVID-19 patients in the ICU has increased by 30% in the past week, the other ICU population has fallen, according to SETRAC data, keeping the overall usage level flat over the past several months.

The Texas Medical Center is reporting that if trends continue, its expanded ICU capacity would reach its limit in two weeks.

Officials did not suggest they would step up enforcement of business capacity limits, but Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city would publish a "Wall of Shame" to discourage businesses that flout the rules.
By Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


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