Experts say Texas is ready for recent surge in COVID-19 but advise caution
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Texas and the rest of the US are seeing a slight increase in COVID-19 cases – but health experts say not to panic, noting that recent infections appear less deadly and that the state is now better prepared than ever.
Government data shows the seven-day average of new cases on Tuesday rose 178 from the week before, taking the median to 3,108. March and April at that time of the month averaged 3,456 and 2,016 cases per day, respectively.
The rise in cases in Texas comes as other places across the country, such as parts of New York and Oregon, have reissued masking recommendations.
“We know that cases of COVID-19 are increasing across our state [and] We assume that the number of cases will continue to rise,” said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, the chief state epidemiologist for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
Average COVID-19 hospitalizations are also rising slightly, with 803 Texans currently being hospitalized with the virus.
Shuford said the disease still poses a risk to Texans’ personal health, but noted the state is in a good position to respond to the recent spike.
“Right now our hospitals have a lot of capacity and that’s a great thing and hasn’t always been the case during this pandemic,” she said.
She also said the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in Texas hospitals is the lowest in the past two years.
dr James McDeavitt, executive vice president and dean of clinical affairs at Baylor College of Medicine, said he hopes immunity to vaccination and the last two spikes would help keep the infection rate down this time.
“Every time we have one of these waves, each one is a little bit unique,” he said. “The hopeful outcome is that we have vaccinated enough people and because through Delta and Omicron [variants] We have infected many people that there is enough immunity in the population that this will not lead to serious illness and hospitalization.”
The recent spike in cases is largely due to two new COVID subvariants, BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, which accounted for 61.8% and 32.4% of all cases in the week of May 7, depending on the state Texas Matter Data. Both are related to earlier subvariants of omicron but do not appear to be as virulent.
The newer BA.2.12.1 strain is expected to overtake the BA.2 strain and encompass the majority of new cases in Texas. BA.2.12.1 appears to be more transmissible but less deadly than its predecessor, Shuford said.
Carrie Kroll of the Texas Hospital Association agreed hospitals are largely prepared to deal with this surge, saying treatments like monoclonal antibodies and antiviral pills have better prepared healthcare facilities to deal with the virus by preventing it that COVID-19 patients reached acute stages of the disease.
But she also said state hospitals still face shortages of nurses and respiratory therapists, a problem felt across hospital departments, she said.
“The more we can do to keep the disease at bay so that hospitals can focus on and make room for people who are acutely ill for other reasons, the better.”
McDeavitt also called for caution, noting that while state data shows an increase in infections, the actual case numbers are likely higher because at-home testing is becoming more popular and its results are often unreported.
It’s also too early to say for sure what direction the rise in cases will go.
“If the consequence of this wave is that a lot of people get viral upper respiratory symptoms, have a runny nose, have a cough and it’s self-limiting and [you] don’t get sick, that would be a good result for this wave,” McDeavitt said. “The next few weeks will tell.”
He added that while COVID-19 variants such as Delta and Omicron were less deadly and more transmissible than previous variants, “the possibility cannot be ruled out that we will eventually see a variant that causes more severe disease than we have seen to date.” have the past.”
Kroll noted that Texas and the rest of the US will continue to experience various peaks and troughs in COVID-19 case counts as long as a large portion of the population remains unvaccinated or lacking antibodies to the virus.
“It’s important to remember that we are still in a pandemic, COVID is still a real threat,” Kroll said.
Experts agree that the best way to protect yourself from the virus is still to get vaccinated and boosted. In addition, wearing high-quality masks in indoor public spaces is recommended as an effective protection against the virus – especially for people with weakened immune systems or who live with people who are particularly susceptible to the virus.
Disclosure: The Texas Department of Health and Human Services and the Texas Hospital Association have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role at the Tribune‘s journalism. A complete list can be found here.
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