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COVID vaccinations, testing up in Harris County as Delta variant spreads

Houston is one of the places CDC data shows the coronavirus surging.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The City of Houston reported 1,722 new cases on Tuesday, the highest number of daily cases reported for the city since Jan. 29.

Houston is one of the places CDC data shows the coronavirus surging. Now the agency is recommending mask wearing indoors, even for vaccinated people, in those parts of the country, along with masks for everyone inside K-12 schools.

CDC officials blame the reversal on the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.

Harris County Public Health says their COVID-19 testing is up 300 percent over the last two weeks as that variant has surged.

They’re also seeing more people at vaccination sites like NRG Park.

“It is the first time in about two months we’ve seen an increase instead of a decrease in the demand,” said Jennifer Kiger, chief of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response with Harris County Public Health.

Kiger says more people are also getting vaccinated at the county’s 10 mobile sites, which target ZIP codes with higher risk and lower vaccination rates.

She says the county's gotten requests from more businesses and schools.

“Obviously school’s coming back into session in August, especially amongst the middle schools and high schools where the students are eligible for the vaccine right now,” said Kiger. “So, there is quite a large increase in interest there.”

State data shows about 26 percent of kids ages 12 to 17 in Texas are fully vaccinated.

The Delta variant is twice as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus.

“Children typically are not presenting for hospitalization, but they’re presenting with symptoms and are being diagnosed with COVID,” said Dr. David Callender, CEO of Memorial Hermann.

On Tuesday, the Texas State Teachers Association urged Gov. Greg Abbott to let school districts require masks, which is banned under a state executive order.

RELATED: Texas State Teachers Association calls on Gov. Abbott to allow schools to require masks

“Everyone has had more than a year to master all the safe strategies that they can choose that’s best for them and their family members,” said Gov. Abbott on July 21 during a stop in Houston. “We’re past the time of government mandates. We’re into the time for personal responsibility.”

Kiger says Harris County Public Health supports the CDC’s recommendations.

The county judges in Harris County and Fort Bend County both recently recommended indoor mask wearing.

People can call Harris County Public Health at 832-927-8787 to register for an appointment for vaccinations or testing.

NRG Park’s vaccination site is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12 to 7 p.m. The vaccines are free and do not require identification, insurance, or an appointment.

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