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COVID-19 cases in the Houston area are dropping

What is behind the drop, and will it last?

HOUSTON — COVID-19 cases are dropping in the Houston area.

The Texas Medical Center’s COVID-19 dashboard is showing updates that appear promising.

The area’s positivity rate is down, new cases are half of what they were last week, and the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to area hospitals each day continues to drop.

“Maybe together, the vaccinated who are immune and the people who have survived COVID are immune, so that the virus is running out of people to infect,” said UT Health epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Troisi, Ph.D. “Now that’s not totally true, but maybe that’s slowing down the spread.”

Troisi said there could be other factors at play as well. She said even the cooler weather could be having an impact.

With more people spending time outdoors, there’s less of a chance for transmission.

“That doesn’t mean we should let down our precautions,” Troisi said. “We still have a high number of cases every day, 1,500 or so in the Harris County area, and that’s just not sustainable.”

Troisi said new models released by the CDC this week show a lower level of the virus in March.

But she said the models are based on a couple assumptions: "that a vaccine is approved for children and parents get their kids vaccinated; and that a new variant doesn’t arise that would hinder the progress that has been made.”

“It’s possible that another variant will arise that’s even better at infecting people than the Delta variant, so that’s why it’s very hard to make predictions for the virus,” Troisi said.

Without knowing for certain what the future holds, Dr. Troisi said it’s best to continue with what we already know.

“We see right now a lot of people not wearing masks, not social distancing, going back to life as it was in February of 2019,” Troisi said. “And it’s really too soon for that.”