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'Texas is in the lower half' | Health experts warn of southern surge as COVID vaccinations plateau in Harris County

About 48% of the population 12 and older are fully vaccinated in Harris County.

HOUSTON — Americans are on the move again this summer. The Transportation Security Administration screened a new record number of passengers on Sunday for the first time since the pandemic began.

Businesses are busy and masks are coming off. But health experts warn COVID-19 isn't history just yet.

"We're definitely not done," Dr. Peter Hotez said. "The pandemic is going to pay us a visit, an unwelcome visit in the summer, and we should expect to see some type of southern surge."

That's because southern states are way behind in vaccination rates. 

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine numbers plateau nationwide as Delta variant continues to spread

"Texas is in the lower half. It's not as bad as Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but it's not where we want it to be," Hotez said.

About 56% of the population 12 and older have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas. Only 47% of eligible Texans are fully vaccinated.

"That demand has really decreased. It's really slowed," said Dr. Maria Rivera with Harris County Public Health.

Harris County is only slightly better. About 58% of those 12 and older have received one dose of the vaccine and 48% are fully vaccinated.

That means even if you see most people maskless in a grocery store, you can assume about half are not vaccinated.

The positivity rate is down to about 4%, but with fewer people being tested, it's no longer the most accurate measure of spread in the community.

"Even though numbers are dropping we still have people dying from COVID in our community, people are still hospitalized every single day in our community," Rivera said.

With too few people vaccinated, the new Delta variant fueling spread in the U.S. and masks now optional in many places, experts warn it's likely spread will happen.

RELATED: Why health experts are sounding the alarm about the Delta variant

"There's no question as the number of cases go up, there will be a lot of people shedding the virus in our stores and restaurants," Hotez said.

Experts said if you have children under 12 you should make sure to get them tested frequently through the summer. Since they can't yet be vaccinated, they could be unknowingly spreading the virus throughout the community.

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