Houston ER paperwork communicate of the current surge in COVID upfront

The fourth wave of COVID-19 is like a sequel to a movie that no one ever wanted to see, said Dr. Gina Blocker, attending emergency doctor at Baylor St. Luke’s Hospital.

“This feels like a second part with extra scenes,” said Blocker, who believes that this recent surge could have been avoided if more Houstonians had been vaccinated.

Harris County’s active coronavirus cases have nearly tripled since early July – from 3,076 to 8,431 – as the hyper-contagious Delta variant spreads rapidly among young and mostly unvaccinated Texans.

Blocker sees an average of 20-25 patients per day, at least half of whom will test positive for COVID. Every COVID positive patient she has seen in the past three weeks has not been vaccinated. And doctors across the Houston area, where just over half the eligible population are fully vaccinated, are seeing a similar pattern.

Dr. Hilary Fairbrother, associate professor of emergency medicine at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann, said nearly 100 percent of people who tested positive for COVID at Memorial Hermann are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated with just a Pfizer or Moderna syringe. A single shot of Pfizer or Moderna only protects about 30 percent from COVID symptoms, Fairbrother said.

While the Delta variant is much more contagious than the original coronavirus strain, Fairbrother said it has many of the same symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhea.

“The virus, even if we call it differently, is remarkably the same,” said Fairbrother. “We have changed the population of people who are at risk of really getting sick. We can assume that people who are not vaccinated are more likely to get the Delta variant because it is twice as contagious as the original. “

While the hesitation of vaccines remains a major hurdle in Houston, Blocker says many of her patients are desperate for a vaccination after receiving their diagnosis.

“Most people are shocked when I tell them they have COVID,” Blocker said. “I’ve had a handful of people asking me for the vaccine – now they want the vaccine. The time of diagnosis is not when we give the vaccine. “

Last week, laboratory-confirmed COVID hospital admissions nationwide exceeded 4,000 for the first time since March, a number that coincided with a White House announcement that 40 percent of all new cases were recorded in Texas, Missouri and Florida.

More than 1,000 people test positive for COVID-19 in the greater Houston area each day, which is more than seven times the daily average for the past month, according to the Texas Medical Center.

Dr. Richina Bicette, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, has been treating COVID patients since March 2020.

Bicette said the latest wave will be different because doctors know what they’re struggling with. And there are vaccines that prevent the worst COVID results, she said.

“At this point in time, there is little excuse for people to become seriously ill with COVID-19; We have something to counteract that, ”said Bicette. “I don’t understand why people would choose differently. This is currently a public health crisis. “

After Memorial Day Weekend, when many Houstonians dipped their toes back into “normal” social situations, Dr. David Lakey, a member of the state vaccines panel, said the return to pre-pandemic life was on the horizon. Then the vaccinations stalled in June. And in July the increase in the number of cases was undeniable.

Vivian Ho, a health economist at Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy, said she was comfortable walking into a crowded Bucee gas station without a mask in early June.

“We did a road trip and stopped at Bucee and it was a crazy house,” said Ho. “I was exposed like everyone else and felt fine. That would be incredibly stupid with the Delta variant. “

Ho will be teaching personally in Rice again at the end of August. While nervous about returning, she believes that Rice students have proven themselves risk averse and are largely being vaccinated. In any case, she will wear her mask.

She also worries about public school teachers and children who are too young to be vaccinated and return to class for the next few months. Last May, Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order to prevent individual school districts from mandating face coverings that will remain in effect for 2021-22.

“I’m afraid we don’t have the data to enable parents to make the right decisions to keep their children safe, and many of them will end up keeping their children at home,” said Ho. “I think this is behavior tends to be more common among lower-income families who lagged the most last year. “

julie.garcia@chron.com

Twitter.com/reporterjulie

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