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Harris County's coronavirus numbers are moving 'in the wrong direction,' health experts warn

Health experts said the uptick coincides with the reopening of Texas and holiday gatherings such as Memorial Day.

HOUSTON — It’s the kind of news nobody wants to hear—but no one can afford to ignore.

Three months after the first Houston-area coronavirus case, several health experts warned the recent trend of new infections and hospitalizations is not looking good.

“Pretty much all the numbers are moving in the wrong direction at this point,” said Dr. David Persse, director of the Houston Health Department.

The head of Methodist Hospital echoed that concern.

“We’ve seen an array of numbers that are all unfortunately going in the wrong direction,” said president and CEO Dr. Marc Boom.

Daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Houston trauma service area hit back-to-back record highs Monday and Tuesday, with 614 and 622 cases, respectively, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Daily new cases in the Greater Houston area began to spike two weeks ago, with the most ever in the region recorded Saturday with 835.

In Harris County, which includes the city of Houston, 483 new cases were reported Saturday, the most since early April.

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“I think a lot of this is all of our behaviors may be letting our guard down and not being careful enough,” Boom said.

Health experts said the uptick coincides with the reopening of Texas and holiday gatherings such as Memorial Day. Each phase brings more Texans back out to eat, drink, work and closer together.

In turn, it brings more favorable conditions for the virus to spread.

“We don’t want to necessarily lose the ground that we were so incredibly able to preserve,” said Dr. Sherri Onyiego with Harris County Public Health.

The two-week daily average of new coronavirus cases, 282 in Harris County, is now at an all-time high.

“We can’t let up on the fact that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic,” Onyiego said.

But what’s working against us is us—our own human nature.

“Every one of us, myself included, has a desire to go back to the way things were,” Persse said.

But after a couple of months, Persse said people begin to fatigue. And the ongoing message of mask-wearing and social distancing can become background noise.

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“It’s understandable, but it’s troubling at the same time because the virus is not gone, and the virus will take advantage of our desires to go back to life the way it was,” Persse said.

Persse added that as individuals, we have 100% control over how we behave. That behavior will have a huge impact on slowing down the virus.

The spike in the numbers likely does not include any new infections spread during recent marches and protests. Health experts said those cases might show up in the next few days to a week. They’re encouraging everyone who took part to get tested.

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