Here we go again. A consistent rise in COVID-19 related hospitalizations in the Harris County (Houston) area has triggered emergency restrictions. The Houston area and surrounding communities have experienced seven straight days of a COVID-19 hospitalization rate of 15%. This mandates a rollback under Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency protocols.
The increase in restrictions went into effect Tuesday and will remain in effect until the region drops below 15 percent COVID-19 hospitalizations for seven straight days. This mandate includes restaurants dropping to 50 percent occupancy from 75 percent, and bars that have not reclassified as restaurants closing immediately. Some bars, in order to skirt past mandates to close, began serving food in order to be classified as a restaurant.
The latest restrictions also put a halt to some elective surgeries, too.
As of Monday, the latest day of available data, the Houston region was at 19.9 percent, up from just over 13 percent a week earlier. Infections and hospitalizations have been rising steadily in recent weeks, following spikes in other parts of the state and amid holiday gatherings.
All but four of the state’s 22 hospital regions were over 15 percent as of Monday.
Texas Medical Center Hospitals in Houston announced earlier Tuesday that they were putting a hold on certain elective surgeries to save resources for coronavirus patients. Under the governor’s protocols, hospitals are required to postpone elective surgeries that would deplete COVID-19 resources.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo scolded residents and called the new level of hospitalizations a “red alert” moving forward. Throughout the pandemic, she has consistently advocated for stricter mandates and also fines for those not adhering to them, including wearing face masks. She has clashed often with Governor Abbott’s more flexible approach to mitigating the coronavirus in Texas.
“The best thing we can do is take this threshold as a wakeup call,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “This is the time to take this for the red alert that it is. We are only going to get through this if we are able to quickly stem the tide of hospitalizations.”
NEW: The Harris County region officially crossed the state's hospitalization threshold triggering #COVID19 reopening rollbacks. Honestly, this is just another milestone on the road to a catastrophe unless each of us acts. We can't rely on a small occupancy rollback. Do your part.
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) January 5, 2021
The Harris County area joins eighteen of the twenty-two trauma service areas in Texas to be placed under stricter orders. A record 13,308 patients hospitalized for lab-confirmed COVID-19 was reported on Tuesday.
Closing businesses and limiting others isn’t sitting well with those most affected by the orders. Rep. Dan Crenshaw spoke out against the latest orders and calls the action unconstitutional. He is encouraging business owners to ignore the orders and for law enforcement to not enforce them.
Businesses should not comply. Lockdowns are not supported by law, they are unconstitutional edicts.
Law enforcement should not enforce this.
Stop stealing people’s right to make a living. https://t.co/v4GgTUS0Zf
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) January 5, 2021
Doctors at Houston Methodist Hospital are expecting that the latest surge in coronavirus hospitalizations to last for several weeks. The recent holiday season is being pointed to as the culprit for the rise in cases. Some elective surgeries will continue to be performed but not non-urgent cases whose demands on staff and space detract from resources better used to treat COVID-19 patients. For example, procedures like mammographies and colonoscopies will continue because they don’t tax needed hospital resources, but heart catheterizations might be delayed. That’s not good news if you are a heart patient.
Houston Methodist CEO Dr. Marc Boom emailed employees that in a matter of days, peak July numbers may be surpassed if the rise in cases continues. The same sentiment was expressed by the chief physician executive at Memorial Hermann.
“This may well be among the most challenging few weeks we’ve experienced during this pandemic,” Boom wrote in the email to employees Monday. “Together, we will get through this, but it will be difficult.”
Dr. James McCarthy, chief physician executive at Memorial Hermann, said his system exceeded 800 patients and should eclipse July numbers by the third week in January. The system’s number of patients has increased three-fold over the last month, he said.
It’s been a vicious cycle. The coronavirus is still with us despite lockdowns and mandates to wear face masks in public and practice social distancing. As soon as restrictions are relaxed, cases start to rise again. This pattern will continue until either herd immunity is achieved or about 90% plus of people are vaccinated. The young, socialist county judge (county CEO, not a judicial position) can fly her authoritarian freak flag all she wants but people can only survive for so long without being able to work and support themselves. Common sense behavior is how we survive to either herd immunity status or reach the level needed in vaccinations administered to people. We’ll see if law enforcement uses its resources to enforce the new orders.
I’ll end this with two tweets from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who often puts party over her duty to be a public servant to all residents of Harris County. She never lets us forget she’s a power-grabbing Democrat. One is from last night when ballots were being counted in Georgia, the other this morning.
The future is bright this morning. Thanks for making history Georgians.
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) January 6, 2021
No matter what happens in Georgia, the fact that these races are so close brings so much hope for the power of organizing, persevering and just plain old believing. That’s a lesson we must not forget in Texas.
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) January 6, 2021