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COVID-19 surges in Galveston County as island braces for impact of 4th of July crowds

Galveston County has passed the 3,000 case threshold, but 1,000 of those cases happened last week. What's most concerning is a positivity rate of 14.9 percent.

GALVESTON, Texas — Galveston beaches are quiet Tuesday, but the quiet won't last much longer.

"We're going to see several hundred thousand people come down here regardless of the recommendations that have come out," said Galveston Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis. "It does seem like people are in the beach mood lately they've been coming out a lot."

And that is a problem. In Galveston County, COVID-19 cases are surging. They crossed past the 3,000 mark, and 1,000 of those were in just one week. Hospitalizations climbed last weekend too and even more concerning is the positivity rate that's now nearly at 15 percent.

"We're very worried about that," said Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County local health authority. "We're at a point where more than 10% of people are testing positive. That means 1 in 10 people if you just take a random walk you're going to pass someone who's infected, probably more than 1."

Dr. Keiser said since reopening, weekends like Mother's Day, Jeep weekend and Memorial Day weekend have all fueled the COVID-19 spike.

"Every week you see the numbers jump up in Galveston County," Dr. Keiser said. "There's no question people are coming down and bringing COVID with them and transmitting it. It was like 4th of July every single weekend."

And now the real 4th of July is quickly approaching.

"If you don't have to go out, the best thing to do is to stay home," Dr. Keiser said.

But if you're going to head to the beach, you have to do it safely.

"Can you go to the beach safely, yeah I think you can," Dr. Keiser said. "But if you come to the beach and it's crowded and there's a not a place for your family to be safe, then no it's not a good thing to do."

Beach Patrol tells KHOU 11 they will do their best to encourage social distancing. But with large crowds expected, visitors need to make smart choices on their own.

"Our general advice for water safety: 'Don't check your brain at the causeway' definitely applies for COVID as well," Davis said.

The fear is if people don't do the right things now, a spike in the cases will only be the beginning.

"We really need to get that number down," Dr. Keiser said. "That number 15 percent (positivity rate) will translate to an increase in hospitalizations 10 days from now and an increase in deaths 20 days from now. So we're very worried about that."

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