MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas — Montgomery County leaders and health experts say the numbers don’t lie.
The Montgomery County Public Health District confirms hospitalizations for COVID-19 are nearing peak levels.
The district said the vast majority of new cases and essentially all hospitalizations are in those who are unvaccinated.
Judge Mark Keough said the county continues to be pro-choice when it comes to masks and vaccinations even though cases of COVID-19 surge because of the Delta variant.
He admits 92 percent of people hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated.
“We do everything we can to keep people’s civil liberties," Judge Keough said. "It’s not government’s job to make people do this stuff, and we will always stand by that.”
At the moment, the top four ZIP codes with the worst number of COVID cases in the region are in Montgomery County.
77303 in Conroe tops the list where 31.5 percent of eligible residents are vaccinated, and there are nearly 10 active cases for every 1000 people.
Judge Keough said many people are skeptical about vaccinations.
“You have a certain age group that because they weren’t affected by it didn’t bother to go and get it,” Judge Keough said.
Triage tents have been set up outside St. Luke’s Hospital in The Woodlands to treat people needing emergency services.
Dr. Robert Dickson, medical director for the Montgomery County Hospital District, said hospitals in the region are in crisis mode.
“Now that we’ve seen this big uptick in cases, not only now are we struggling for bed space, but really we’re struggling for qualified staff to look after those patients,” Dr. Dickson said.
He said the COVID-19 vaccine keeps people out of the hospital.
“The fact of the matter is that people that get the vaccine are protected from hospitalization, and they’re protected from death,” Dr. Dickson said.
Judge Keough said legally the county can’t enforce a mask or vaccine mandate. However, even if he could, Judge Keough said he believes in personal responsibility.
“We know how to take care of ourselves,” Judge Keough said. “We know how to social distance. We know how to keep our hands clean. We know how to wear a mask. We know that when we’re sick we need to stay home so we just expect our people to do that.”
Judge Keough said commissioners plan to hire 130 nurses for eight weeks to help hospitals that are short staffed. It will cost about $9 million and come from the America Rescue Plan Act fund. The first group could arrive in Montgomery County as early as this Sunday.