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Doctor says Houston could be the next COVID-19 hotspot

Models suggest more than 2,800 deaths across the state by the time Texas peaks on May 5.

HOUSTON — Dr. Peter Hotez is concerned Houston could be the next COVID-19 hotspot.

"There's every reason the virus could pick Houston as its next target," Hotez said.

Hotez said what he's seeing in New York City and other major U.S. cities, but especially in New Orleans, could predict problems for Houston.

"We're certainly are very similar demographically," Hotez said. "I'm very concerned about the health of people in some of the poor neighborhoods in our city where diabetes, hypertension rates are high and people are also living in more crowded conditions. Those are the reasons why I've been sounding the alarm that Houston is at risk."

Hotez said the Texas Medical Center is uniquely prepared and positioned to deal with a crisis, should it develop.

"How this will play out is unknown but there's enough there for concern that we have to look at what the models tell us," Hotez said.

The models for Texas change daily. A peak is now expected on May 5. By then, the state could have anywhere from 2,800 to more than 5,000 COVID-19 related deaths. Researchers project upwards of 6,000 total deaths in Texas by August.

"If we implement more severe measures, we can bring those numbers down even further," Hotez said.

Data suggests the stay home order could last longer than expected.

"We may have to extend this until June," Hotez said. "Let's let this move until April 30. Then we can make a re-evaluation of whether we need to extend this another month or if the world looks very different for better or worse."

Hotez said a lack of testing could be giving a false impression of how many cases are really in the Houston area. If, and when, testing ramps up, Hotez said Houston could quickly become another COVID-19 hotspot.

Hotez and a team of Texas scientists continue to work on a COVID-19 vaccine at the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. Hotez said they're trying to ensure they have the funding to proceed to clinical trials.

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