COVID-19 Update

Reopening businesses in May and the Memorial Day holiday may have led to thousands of Texans — and hundreds of Fort Bend County residents — falling ill to COVID-19.

Texas reported its third consecutive day of record-breaking coronavirus hospitalizations on Thursday — just three weeks after tens of thousands of Texans made their way to beaches to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend.

According to the Department of State Health Services, 2,153 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, up from a high of 2,056 on Tuesday, which was up from a high of 1,935 on Monday. The grim statistics were released by the Texas Association of Counties.

Fort Bend County Judge KP George shared the report with county residents Thursday morning.

An additional 74 residents in Fort Bend County have tested positive for the virus, the Fort Bend County Health and Human Services Department reported early Thursday. The department, which keeps tabs on the impact of the virus in Fort Bend County, did not specify when the victims tested positive for the virus.

So far, 2,299 residents in Fort Bend County have tested positive for the potentially deadly strain on coronavirus since March, the county reported. Of those, 898 have recovered completely, 1,331 are recuperating in home quarantine, 23 are hospitalized and 47 have perished.

To be considered completely recovered, victims must test negative for the virus twice in a 14-day period.

A total of 15,970 residents have been tested for the virus at the county’s five free testing sites.

The Texas Association of Counties report reveals that Texas is one of at least nine states where coronavirus hospitalizations have increased sharply since Memorial Day weekend. It takes about nine to 16 days to see increases in coronavirus infections and another five to seven days to see changes in the numbers of people hospitalized, Rebecca Fischer, a Texas A&M University epidemiologist, told The Texas Tribune.

“In terms of new infections, we are seeing a part attributed to activities surrounding Memorial Day weekend, such as gatherings where protective behaviors may have been lax,” she said.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who last week announced the third phase of his plan to reopen Texas businesses, frequently says he considers the state’s hospitalization rate and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests relative to total tests as key metrics in determining the state’s readiness for reopening.

The state’s seven-day average of new cases also has increased the past couple of weeks, rising from a low of 4.3% on May 26 to 6.9% as of Tuesday.

Public health experts generally consider a positivity rate of 10% the maximum for states to reopen safely. And with an estimated 25,423 active COVID-19 cases as of today, the state’s current hospitalization rate is around 8.5%.

The Texas Department of State Health Services says there currently are 13,645 hospital beds available statewide and 1,508 available ICU beds. In terms of daily case numbers, Texas reported 2,504 new cases of COVID-19 today -- also a record – and 32 new deaths. Texas now has reported a total of 79,757 cases since the pandemic began, with 1,885 deaths.

Herald editor Scott Reese Willey contributed to this report.

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