FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas — Fort Bend County Judge KP George was joined by Dr. Peter Hotez and local leaders to warn of increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, urging more people to get vaccinated.
The county’s COVID threat level was officially raised from “moderate” to “significant” as numbers are increasing across the country.
“I am announcing that today we are raising our threat level from yellow, which is moderate risk to significant risk in fort bend county,” George said.
George described the growing threat from the Delta variant as a “challenging situation.”
George said since the COVID-19 Delta variant was discovered in the county about a month ago, the number of new cases has been doubling every week.
George is calling on all county staff to wear a mask while indoors. In an effort to protect the public, they plan to bring back health screenings at the entrance of all county buildings and reinstate social distancing.
Average of 195 new COVID cases each day in Fort Bend
The county had an average of 195 new cases each day during the last reporting week, which is an increase of 149 per day over the previous month, according to Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson-Minter, Director of Health & Human Services in Fort Bend. Minter said that's twice the average of new cases reported daily in the week prior.
“The most current data we have shows that at least 84% of the virus circulating in our county is of the Delta variant," Johnson-Minter said.
She also said COVID-related hospitalizations continue to grow at an average rate of 121 per day, an increase of 70 per day when compared to the previous month's numbers. ICU cases are also on the rise, just as they are across the Houston area.
It's the younger, unvaccinated people going to the hospital now
Judge KP George and others at Tuesday’s press conference stressed “we still have a long way to go,” saying the community should get vaccinated.
Dr. Peter Hotez spoke as well, noting how this COVID spike is different from the previous ones.
“Last year at this time, we were at the start of a horrific surge that went from southwest Texas all the way east to Florida, and all the states in between,” says Hotez. “It looks like once again, COVID-19 is back in the south.”
Right now, about 60% of the residents in Fort Bend County are fully vaccinated.
“To really stop this virus we need well over 80% of the county vaccinated,” Hotez said.
Hotez is most concerned about unvaccinated teens ahead of the new school year.
“We’re seeing lots of young people now going into the hospital getting sick, going into ICUs," Hotez said.
Vaccine misinformation is a big problem
Hotez said Louisiana is currently getting it the worst. He said this time around, it is different because more people are vaccinated. He said we are now getting a different “flavor” of the pandemic with more young people, especially in the south, are getting ill and going into the hospital.
“One of the problems has been all of the anti-vaccine aggression and all of the fake talking points,” Hotez said.
“Human life is the number one priority,” added KP George, who said Fort Bend county’s neighboring counties are not doing as well with getting younger people vaccinated.
“Participate in your own rescue — please,” George said. “We need, we want you to get vaccinated.”
Students voice concerns ahead of school year
Some students in Fort Bend County said they’re worried about returning to in-person learning.
“My anxiety is made worse by knowing that while I am vaccinated and I choose to wear a mask, people sitting directly next to me may not, and their decision directly impacts my health," one student said.