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Doctors urging caution, more vaccinations as Houston COVID infections fall, U.S. cases rise

The U.S. has seen a 16 percent increase in new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

HOUSTON — CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says she’ll be speaking with governors Tuesday after warning that some states are reopening too quickly.

The U.S. has seen a 16 percent increase in new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

However, in a tweet late Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott said the seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate, or percentage of tests coming back positive, in Texas is 4.96%. That’s under the 5% threshold recommended by many health officials.

GET VACCINATED: View waitlist/registration links for COVID vaccination appointments across the Houston area and beyond

Nearly three weeks after Gov. Abbott allowed businesses to fully reopen and make their own mask rules, Texas Medical Center numbers Tuesday show the seven-day average positivity rate in their hospital system is 4.6%, down from 4.7% the prior week and 7% the prior month.

Statistics also show average COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations dropping in the TMC system.

Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, says it’s a slower downward trend than past surges.

“Still at a level that’s almost double,” said Dr. Boom during a virtual town hall Monday. “Not quite, but almost double where we nadired out or bottomed out in the September time frame and about almost two and a half times where we bottomed out in the May time frame.”

Dr. Pedro Piedra with Baylor College of Medicine said Tuesday Houston is at the low end of its third large infection wave from the winter.

“Right now, it’s kinda like it has burned out,” said Dr. Piedra.

He says whether that wave falls, hovers, or rises depends on several factors, including the extent of reopening.

Dr. Piedra also believes Spring Break is a big factor due to lots of young people not social distancing and not wearing masks who travelled back home. Oftentimes, they don’t show symptoms.

“We’re not immune to what is happening in other parts of the country or the world,” said Dr. Piedra.

Dr. Piedra also hopes more vaccine coverage will give Houston a head start against the more contagious variants.

“It’s kind of like a race right now,” said Dr. Piedra. “Who’s gonna win? The good guy or the bad guy?”

Dr. David Persse, Public Health Authority for the City of Houston, credits vaccinations with lowering the city’s COVID-19 case count and its death rate.

He believes those vaccinations need to quickly expand to large numbers of younger people.

“We really can get ahead of this virus,” said Dr. Persse during a press conference Monday announcing a vaccination competition between local universities. “Is this the eye of the storm, and if it is, this is the time for us to push the vaccine and get it out, so then the back side of the storm is not the dirty side.”

Stephen Williams, director of Houston Health Department, plans to add more community vaccine sites, in addition to the existing four health clinics, as supply increases.

HHD is also working on a partnership to target housing complexes.

Williams says his staff is also administering COVID-19 vaccines to homebound residents. They can call 832-393-4301 to get a shot.

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