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Is Houston About to Become a Coronavirus Epicenter?

Confirmed coronavirus infections have spiked throughout the Houston Metro Region over the past several weeks, igniting fears that the area is poised to become the next big epicenter for COVID-19.

“If we continue on the same trajectory, my worry is Houston could become the worst affected city right now in North America,” Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine told KHOU-11 on Saturday.

Texas Reports 108,000+ New Coronavirus Infections

Texas – where the confirmed case count currently exceeds 108,000 – has now seen record coronavirus hospitalizations for 10 straight days. Since Memorial Day, hospitalizations related to COVID-10 have surged 126% throughout the state.

Texas health authorities reported 2,276 new infections on Sunday, the sixth-highest single-day increase since the outbreak began. The state’s largest and third-largest single-day increases were reported on Friday and Saturday.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Harris County reported an average of 610 new cases over the last week, up from an average of 313 per day just the previous week.  Galveston County reported its highest single-day case increase on Saturday, while Brazoria County also reported three of its largest single-day increases over the last four days.

Harris County Face Mask Order Begins Today

On Friday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo signed an order mandating that most businesses require all employees and visitors to wear face coverings in areas of close proximity to co-workers or the public. The order took effect today. Acceptable face coverings include homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas, or handkerchiefs.

While officials in Brazoria, Galveston, and Montgomery counties are urging residents to wear face coverings out in public, they apparently have no plans to issue a similar order.

“Individuals and businesses need to take personal responsibility in following the recommended best practices in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Judge Mark Henry said Sunday in posting to Facebook. “If you find that a business doesn’t appear to have taken steps that have been recommended in Governor Abbott’s reopening plan, then don’t reward them by doing business with them. It’s that simple.”

Residents of Fort Bend County have been asked for their opinion on a potential mask order,

Face Masks May Not be Enough to Slow COVID-19 in Houston

Widespread use of face masks and other coverings has been shown to slow the spread of COVID-19. But according to Dr. Hotez, Harris County’s recent order may have come too late to save Houston from the worst effects of the pandemic.

“I don’t think that’s going to be adequate,” he said. “I think we’re going to have to take additional measures. The masks may be the easy part. We may have to reinstitute social distancing in some sectors.”

Governor Gregg Abbott’s decision to reopen Texas early, along with Memorial Day, massive beach crowds, recent protests, and the refusal of many to voluntarily wear masks, is driving rising new infection rates across the state. Dr. Hotez is now warning of an “apocalyptic” scenario for the Houston Metro Region, with coronavirus numbers rivaling New York City or some cities in Brazil.

“I knew things would get bad if we opened too soon, but I didn’t expect this level of acceleration, and I’m hoping it doesn’t continue at the same pace in the coming weeks.”

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