New COVID spike prompts new calls for Texans to get vaccinated
AUSTIN – Texas experiences first post-vaccination peak in COVID-19 cases with new Delta variant spiking and people who are not fully vaccinated endure the worst, state health professionals say .
New confirmed cases, as well as hospitalizations, have tended to increase since late June, but well below the pace of last summer when the deadly and highly contagious virus strained resources and brought the economy to a screeching halt.
The current trend is manageable but worrying, an official at a Texas hospital said. But perhaps the most infuriating thing is that the increase in the number of cases could be easily avoided, he added.
“We must again prepare to face another wave knowing that it is, at this point, fully preventable with vaccinations,” said Dr Wesley Long, infectious disease expert and director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist Hospital.
Nearly 200 patients were hospitalized for COVID at the Houston Methodist on Tuesday, which has become one of the nation’s leading virus treatment centers. Just over 3,000 COVID patients were hospitalized statewide on Sunday, according to the latest available state figures.
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But the state’s figures were quite different a year ago, if not six months ago. As of July 21, 2020, the Texas hospital was treating 10,893 COVID patients. It was the height of summer. The winter peak happened on January 11 at 14,218. Hospitalizations began to decline significantly until mid-March and leveled off until reaching their lowest in over a year on June 27, when that only 1,428 COVID patients were in Texas hospitals.
Chris Van Duesen, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said his office does not collect data on vaccination rates from hospitalized COVID patients, but said anecdotal reports from across the state show that about 96% or more of people hospitalized with COVID had not been fully immunized.
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Texas, like many parts of the country, had enjoyed its return to a normal summer after more than a year of steadily rising COVID-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths. But that complacency was interrupted last weekend when the US statesman from Austin reported that three of the nearly 60 Democratic State House members who fled to protest in Washington, DC, had tested positive for CIVID despite their full vaccination.
As of Monday, six members had tested positive.
The state remains below the national average for full immunizations, but rates for most of the state’s urban counties – and many hard-hit border counties – were above or near 60% this week.
Van Deusen said that unlike last year’s summer peak, which coincided with the easing of restrictions as Memorial Day weekend approaches, the current rise cannot be conclusively linked to the recent weekend. July 4 holiday end which has become a kind of celebration of the COVID recovery.
“This is really the Delta variant that spreads much more easily,” he said, adding that his agency was compiling data to quantify Delta’s share in the overall COVID workload of the Texas.
Health care professionals say mask wearing and social distancing should always be practiced by people who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. However, Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the remaining mask warrants in March and specifically banned cities and counties from issuing new ones. Most major retailers have also switched to optional masking policies in recent weeks.
Abbott spokeswoman Renea Eze on Tuesday echoed the governor’s continued call for Texans to put aside lingering concerns about the vaccination and noted that state officials have been pushing aggressively so that as many doses as possible get to Texas.
“Vaccines are the most effective defense against contracting COVID and becoming seriously ill, and we continue to urge all eligible Texans to be vaccinated,” Eze said, adding that “the COVID vaccine will always remain. voluntary and never forced in Texas. “
Long, the Harris Methodist infectious disease expert, said most of those who contract the virus after being vaccinated avoid the devastating effects of the virus, including death.
“Overall, the vast majority of people we see with serious illness are not vaccinated,” Long said. “The same goes for people admitted to hospital or intensive care.”
Many others who are vaccinated have come to the hospital for a different reason and have routinely taken a COVID test without realizing they carried the virus, Long said.
“They find out that they are positive for COVID and are kind of a shock, even with the Delta variant, (because) they have no symptoms or only mild symptoms,” Long said. “It’s kind of like, ‘I thought I had allergies.'”