The University of Texas Medical Branch once again is limiting access to its hospitals and taking greater precautions against the COVID-19 virus because of a precipitous rise in COVID-19 cases, officials said.

On Monday, the medical branch announced fewer people would be allowed inside its facilities as visitors. People being treated at the medical branch for COVID-19 will not be allowed visitors in most cases, and people in the hospital for other reasons will be allowed only a single visitor.

Visitors also will be limited in units for women, infants and children, in emergency rooms and in clinics.

“We have seen a worrying increase in the number of COVID patients across all of our hospitals,” said Dr. Gulshan Sharma, the medical branch’s chief medical officer. “We as doctors and nurses have seen this before and we know how to best treat our patients, but we need our community to help us as well.”

The medical branch had similar visitor limits earlier in the pandemic but lifted them as local cases began to drop. Now, the trends are on the reverse again.

On Monday, the medical branch announced 396 more local people had been diagnosed with the virus between Friday and Sunday. The number of active cases in the county is at its highest level since May, and the average number of cases being identified daily are at their highest levels since February.

The number of active cases and new daily cases is still below the numbers seen in other surges in COVID-19 in the summer of 2020 and early months of 2021.

The earliest sign in a local surge of cases was the report of dozens of infections related to a League City church camp. However, the number of cases reported in recent days is because of far more than just the camp, Galveston County Local Health Authority Dr. Philip Keiser said.

“It’s all over the community,” Keiser said.

Local health officials have blamed the local spread on the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, which is spreading primarily through unvaccinated people.

As of Monday, 155,008 people in Galveston County were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. About 54 percent of people eligible to be vaccinated in the county have been fully vaccinated.

Another 15,942 people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The medical branch specifically cited an increase in the number of people being hospitalized by COVID-19 as its reason for implementing renewed precautions. Over the past week, the number of people being treated for COVID-19 in medical branch hospitals has increased from about 50 to more than 90, according to the medical branch.

Sharma urged people to get vaccinated, and if they’re feeling sick to be tested for COVID-19. Keiser said he recommended people again begin wearing masks whenever they’re in public, including when they’re outside and around other people. He also urged people to get vaccinated.

“I want people to get vaccinated,” Keiser said “People who are being hard-headed about this are going to learn a hard lesson. It’s spreading much more rapidly, much more rapidly than the other surges.”

What’s different about the current surge is the lack of power and interest to stop it using widespread measures, Keiser said. Last summer and earlier this year, when cases surged, Gov. Greg Abbott and local officials took measures to limit public gatherings. Beaches and bars were closed for periods of time, and restaurants were ordered to limit capacity.

Over the course of the pandemic, however, Abbott and state lawmakers have placed new limits on who can issue such orders, and there’s little indication that the governor or the Legislature is interested in issuing mandates to stop the current surge.

The medical branch announced it was reopening a public COVID testing site on Harborside Drive to accommodate people seeking COVID tests. COVID tests also are available at the medical branch’s urgent care clinics.

The medical branch announced earlier this month it was once again requiring people to wear face masks inside its hospitals and clinics because of the rise in COVID cases.

The medical branch is the largest health care provider in Galveston County and operates hospitals in Galveston and League City.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter


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(9) comments

Bailey Jones

Here we go again.

“People who are being hard-headed about this are going to learn a hard lesson.”

Get yourself vaccinated!

John Lengyel


Wayne D Holt

The CDC just provided new guidance that the rPCR test that has been used to "diagnose" umpteen millions as Covid victims will be discontinued at the end of the year as being unreliable to differentiate between Covid 19 and other strains of influenza. I think I see how the miraculous disappearance of flu around the world happened now, Bailey. You know, the disappearance that showed us paper masks could eliminate every strain of virus but Covid, to credulous believers like yourself.

A lawsuit just filed in federal district court in Alabama had, among its various heretofore unknown tidbits, the charge that the CDC is providing guidance that vaccinated folks who are tested should be using 28 cycles of the test, whereas unvaccinated should face a 35-40 cycle standard which will GUARANTEE it will be able to turn up influenza strands. And now that we know even the CDC recognizes the PCR test as unfit to diagnose ANYTHING in a medically appropriate setting--as the inventor of the test said years ago--there is no way to back up any of these latest claims coming out of the wholly owned subsidiary of Big Pharma called the CDC.

Other not-to-be-missed factoids that turned up in the suit include the verifiable fact that not only is the vaccine authorized for use but not approved, but ALL the tests devised to isolate and identify Covid are also non-approved. Why, that simply means neither the vaccine nor the tests that determine if you need the vaccine are proven to do any of the things claimed about them. Unproven. That's THE SCIENCE.

@Dr. Sharma: UTMB claims "a precipitous rise in COVID-19 cases." Are the new cases Delta variant? If so, did UTMB determine that by genetic sequencing of each patient? If not, how do you know? And if they are not Delta variant, why would there be a surge in non-variant among the unvaccinated now if they, as most likely, have already been exposed to it and developed natural immunity? Hospitalizations are down 90% from the peak. Are you one of those Zero Virus folks who thinks we can entirely eliminate this thing from the biosphere?

Delta variant has no peer reviewed science that I have been made aware of that explains exactly how it is more virulent, more transmissible or more deadly. We have anecdotal observations of micro and not macro population infection.

Meanwhile, not a whisper that when swine flu vaccines killed folks in the dozens, it was pulled off the market without hesitation. Today, with thousands of deaths and well over 100,000 serious adverse reactions reported to the VAERS database as suspected vaccine related in the US alone, the push has been to make the shot a must -have to younger and younger folks, wider and wider audiences, and stamp out reporting of the toll it is taking.

Bailey, you believe it is all just a coincidence people are injured or dying after this inoculation at rates 30x the historic level over the past 15 years for ALL immunizations combined. You continue to cheerlead for death and lifelong chronic impairment for a condition with a fatality case rate for the average general population of less than 1% now. It is more than baffling how an educated person can look at the facts, look at the agencies and businesses involved, and come to the conclusion things are exactly as they tell us.

You haven't even begun to see what hard-headed is going to look like if the insanity and coercion being contemplated now by the ultra corrupt at the top of the heap is carried forward. As I suggested before, mask up, vaxx up, back up; whatever you folks need to do to feel safe is fine with those who haven't lost the use of their reasoning capacity yet. Just don't make the mistake of thinking your choices are going to be shoved down our throats with no consequences.

Andrew Murton

"will be discontinued at the end of the year as being unreliable to differentiate between Covid 19 and other strains of influenza". This is wrong. The CDC has suggested that labs implement a multiplex method that allows the detection and differentiation of SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza. That is, a test could report if you had either COVID, Influenza, or neither. The current test to be retired would simple report if you had COVID or not (which is still very helpful). To be clear, a current PCR test would not report Influenza as a false positive. To suggest so shows a lack of understanding of how PCR tests work.

Wayne D Holt

This was poorly worded on my part and should have been two sentences. A PCR is inappropriate to test because it, by itself, cannot determine virulence or infectivity. It is incapable of differentiating between inert and infectous levels of virus presence. And the statistical disappearance of all other flu strains while Covid raged, with no verifiable explanation, is a better way to express it.

How is it helpful to report positivity of exposure while not being able to determine if the sample was capable of infection of the host? You wind up with case numbers that terrify people while telling them zero about their risk of exposure to such folks.

Some PCR manufacturers tell us there is “cross contamination” and “non-specific” interference with a list of viruses and other in their instructions manuals (DC Creative Diagnostics 2020, Certest BIOTEC 2020. That means your assertion that the test can reliably determine with specificity is not correct, at least as to some number of test manufacturers.

In March 2020, the World Health Organization instructed authorities not to look for a virus but to rely instead on a genome test, the RT-PCR, which is not specific for SARS-CoV-2 (1) (British Medical Journal: This was the model upon which the data familiar to most of the world was compiled.

Eurosurveillance states: “Virus detection by reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) from respiratory samples is widely used to diagnose and monitor SARS-CoV-2 infection and, increasingly, to infer infectivity of an individual. However, RT-PCR does not distinguish between infectious and non-infectious virus." Again, how is this helpful?

As of the July 21, 2021 publication date, the CDC states that, "no quantified virus isolates of the 2019-nCoV are currently available", and used a genetically modified human lung alveolar adenocarcinoma cell culture to, “mimic clinical specimen.”

Thermo Fisher Scientific TaqPath COVID-19 Combo Kit, a swab test conducted either on your throat or nose as well as the Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. (Roche) cobas SARS-CoV-2 & Influenza A/B Nucleic Acid Test both had FDA notices of unreliable readings.

Since all of the PCR tests are used under Emergency Use Authorization and are not proven to be reliable, how can you claim they can be?

Michelle Aycoth

People getting sick but nobody dying.

Flu is worse now.

Dan Freeman

Ms Aycoth is just wrong:

New Deaths in Texas last week: 213

Record high: 2,311 Jan 17–Jan 23, 2021

C. Patterson

As the caretaker of my 92 yr old parents I appreciate the additional precautions to protect our most vulnerable. We are in and out on a fairly regular basis. The thought of my mother who suffers dementia contracting Covid, being hospitalized, suffering and dying alone confused, not knowing why her family is not there is a horrific nightmare to me.

Bailey Jones

I share the same nightmare, with my MIL, who's suffered from dementia for the last 4 years. We try very hard to keep the virus away from her and her away from the virus. We've been able so far to keep her in her home, so I'm thankful for that.

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