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Human behavior 'is driving this': Disturbing increase in number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Houston area

The Texas Medical Center says hospitalizations give an objective view of how COVID-19 impacts the healthcare system.

HOUSTON — Doctors are concerned about Houston and Harris County's rising rate of hospitalizations of people suffering from COVID-19 in the last three weeks.

Since Memorial Day weekend, hospitalizations in the Texas Medical Center are growing by an average of 3 percent every day.

Houston Health Authority Doctor David Persse said simply speaking can spread the virus, so wearing a mask is critical.

“People who don’t yet have symptoms, that’s actually when they spread the virus the most. Right in the couple of days before they have symptoms is when they’re most dangerous to the people near them," Dr. Persse said.

He, and doctors at UT Health, say the re-opening of the economy is likely one cause of the increased spread.

They say the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 is higher now than it was a few months ago.

The latest data from the Texas Department of State Health Services said the Houston area only has 252 available ICU beds.

Doctors say if you go out in public, the combination of wearing a mask and keep physical distance is the best way to stay safe. While doctors agree that being outside mitigates the spread, it is not a substitute for physical distancing.

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“It’s really human behavior that’s driving this," said Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease expert for UT Health.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released a new coronavirus "public threat level system," to help residents better understand the status of coronavirus in the area and what actions they need to take to help maintain the spread of the virus. 

Dr. Troisi said limiting social circles to a select group of fewer than 10 friends – people who you know have all been taking the same precautions – is one of the safest ways to get together with friends, adding you are only as safe as the weakest link in your chain of friends.

“Make that your household, your pod that you feel safe socializing with those people," Dr. Troisi said.

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Dr. Persse said activities such as going out for brunch with people who live outside of your household can be risky.

“Those are the exact types of behaviors the virus is going to take advantage of," Dr. Persse said. “If you’re out in public, you should be wearing a mask. Period.”