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Signs pointing toward another COVID-19 surge

Millions of people are on lockdown in China as it experiences its worst outbreak since March 2020. Cases are also on the rise in Europe.

HOUSTON — COVID-19 transmission in the Houston area is as low as it's been in a long time, but there are warning signs in the U.S. and across the world that the lull may not last very long.

"There's a lighter feel right now because of the low level of transmission," infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez said.

Hotez said there are plenty of things to feel good about two years after the pandemic began. Case counts have dramatically dropped: They now stand at less than 10 new cases per 100,000 people.

Houston area wastewater only shows a 3% positivity rate.

But this week, more than a third of CDC wastewater sites nationwide are reporting an uptick in COVID-19.

"This grace period we have is not going to go on forever," Hotez said.

There are warning signs abroad, too. Cases are on the rise again in Europe. In China, they're seeing the worst outbreak since March 2020. The BA.2 variant driving a lot of that spread.

"It's more transmissible than omicron, so our margin for error is less," Hotez said. "If, or when, it hits us, it will really hit us and really go up fast."

With millions on lockdown in China and factories that make products like iPhones and cars forced to shut down, the global supply chain could take another hit and inflation could worsen, too.

"The pandemic is far from over," World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Hotez said WHO's warning should be taken seriously here in the United States.

"I think it's really important that Congress act," Hotez said.

Hotez is calling on Congress to pass more COVID-19 funding and to do it quickly to ensure there's enough money for tests, treatments and boosters before the next wave. Pfizer has already said it plans to seek approval for a fourth COVID-19 booster for seniors 65 and up.

"Just pretending it's going away is not helpful," Hotez said. "We have to get ready."

On Wednesday, Fort Bend County has announced it plans to lower its COVID-19 threat risk level. KHOU 11 News will have coverage of that announcement and what it means Wednesday afternoon.

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