HOUSTON — Houston’s COVID wastewater testing confirms what health officials predicted would happen after the holidays -- another COVID-19 wave.
The Houston Health Department reports an average 20% percent positivity rate for Houston.
“It’s actually very high,” said Dr. David Persse, the public health authority for Houston. “It’s one of the five people who are going to the public testing sites who are testing positive.”
The viral load in the wastewater has also spiked to 659%, and that's just the average. For example, the Park Ten plant towards Katy reports a 1,241% viral load in the wastewater and a 29% test positivity rate.
However, if you’re not hearing about lots of cases, there could be a reason.
“I think that what’s happening is a lot of people, who have partial immunity, or there’s previous infection, or they got vaccinated, when they become infected now, they are becoming so mildly ill that they may not even be testing themselves and just going about their day,” said Persse.
In other words, many are treating the pandemic like an endemic, which is a cold or flu.
According to Houston Methodist, which tracks the COVID strains and variants, the most recent numbers show the XBB variants, taking over much of the country, only makeup 14% of Houston area cases. The BQ variant is still the dominant variant.
Although hospitalizations are lower than they used to be with these Omicron variants, Dr. Persse says people should still be taking precautions.
“One thing about COVID, unlike the flu, is COVID, we know, will attack any organ system. So, I don’t trust COVID,” Persse said.
Health officials said the best protection from severe illness is still a vaccine. However, the CDC reports only 15.9% of eligible people have gotten the bivalent shot that targets the latest variants.
“For those folks who remain unvaccinated, yeah, they are still at great risk," Persse said.