GALVESTON

The rate of people testing positive for COVID-19 at University of Texas Medical Branch facilities tripled from about 5 percent of samples to 15 percent over the past week, an increase that has medical branch officials warning Galveston has joined the rest of the country in a variant-driven spike.

The increase is being blamed on the omicron variant of the virus, which in a few weeks has become the dominant strain of the virus being detected at medical branch facilities, said Dr. Janak Patel, the director of Infection Control and Healthcare Epidemiology at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

“This is local and this is real,” Patel said on Monday.

The increase also is apparent in the number of cases being reported, which rose from less than 50 to more than 400 in less than a week.

The jump in cases came on suddenly. Local hospitals still are reporting low numbers of COVID patients relative to other points of the pandemic.

“We tripled our positivity rate within a week,” Patel said. “Not even a week. Just in five days.”

He called the jump in the positivity rate “mind- boggling.”

The jump speaks to the highly infectious nature of the variant, Patel said.

In terms of sheer numbers, active cases in Galveston County still are near their lowest points of the pandemic, which is now in its 21st month. Hospitalizations in Galveston County are similarly low compared to earlier points in the pandemic.

But the number of cases being reported by local health agencies is unquestionably growing.

The number of active cases of COVID-19 has increased by 285 people in the past week, the greatest one-week increase in active cases since late August.

The medical branch, which operates facilities in Brazoria, Galveston and Harris counties, diagnosed more than 450 cases on Saturday and Sunday, Patel said.

“The weekend is supposed to be light,” Patel said.

The weekend before that, fewer than 50 cases were diagnosed at medical branch facilities, he said.

The medical branch has seen a 25 percent increase in patients in the past week, Patel said.

The rise in cases locally also is being seen in the Houston region and nationally. On Sunday, Houston Methodist announced that 82 percent of its cases were now the omicron variant.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Monday said 73 percent of new cases nationally were the omicron variant, a nearly six-fold increase over the week before.

Much about the omicron variant remains unknown, including whether it causes more or less severe illness. Early studies suggest the vaccinated will need a booster shot for the best chance at preventing omicron infection. But even without the extra dose, vaccination still should offer strong protection against severe illness and death, The Associated Press reported.

Patel said the medical branch was optimistic omicron wouldn’t overwhelm the local health care system but said it depends on whether omicron infections start taking hold in higher-risk groups, like older people or the immunocompromised.

In past waves of the COVID virus, increases in cases have preceded drastic increases in hospitalizations, followed by another increase in deaths. The late-summer wave of the virus, which was attributed to the delta strain, killed more than 150 people in Galveston County.

Patel said the vast majority of people going into medical branch hospitals for treatment because of COVID were unvaccinated.

About 55 percent of Galveston County residents have received at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccinations.

Patel urged people to get booster shots to give themselves the greatest possible protection from the virus and its serious side effects. The best way to avoid contracting the virus is to be vaccinated, avoid large gatherings of people in indoor spaces, especially if people are unvaccinated or if their vaccination status is unknown, and to wear face masks when around other people, Patel said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(56) comments

Robert Braeking

Statistics can be misleading - especially when used to mislead. If everyone who has the sniffles gets tested for the China virus and only 15% are positive, that means that 85% just have the common cold. Is everyone who presents to the UTMB facilities being tested or are only those who present for symptoms? How many of those who were tested were presenting for China virus symptoms or are those presenting for injury also tested?

Bailey Jones

Robert, testing positivity is a reliable predictor of upcoming cases. After two years of watching the virus in 10s of millions of infections, the relationship is well understood. I'm not sure what "misleading" you are accusing our local health care professionals of.

But - the metrics that really count are the number of cases (up 400% in a week), the number of hospitalizations (always lags the number of cases), and the number of deaths (always lags behind hospitalizations).

What increase in positivity tells us is that we are heading into another winter surge. We will see cases numbers rise - a lot, because omicron is the most contagious variant we've seen yet. We will see hospitalizations and deaths go up - how much depends on how virulent omicron turns out to be.

None of this is "misleading". The only things misleading here are your unjustified and unsupportable accusations.

Jim Casey

[thumbup]

It's wonderful what a good job Fox News does of training parrots.

Emman Sull

It's wonderful what CNN and Democrats do to carry propaganda.

Carlos Ponce

It has been shown that FOX News viewers are better informed.

"Survey finds Fox viewers better informed than CNN, MSNBC viewers "

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/may/19/survey-fox-viewers-better-informed-cnn-msnbc-viewe/

Now the polling was done by a Conservative think tank but based on forum contributions I have found this to be true.

Carlos Ponce

Indications are "testing" is not accurate.

What they found in South Africa is panning out in the United States. It is mild. Check with your health care provider.

Robert Braeking

Mr. Jones, It is misleading and alarmist to say that the case count has tripled even though it has. Your ilk have the propensity of using true information to imply untruth. How does this data compare with a normal influenza outbreak? This China virus alarmist rhetoric that your peoples are spreading is putting the population in fear. One should not fear this virus. Take precautions. Anecdotally, my wife and I have managed to avoid infection to this point. Hopefully the new variant or the next one will be so mild an infection that a majority of the population will contract it and achieve immunity without even knowing that they have had it. Why should I subject myself to a so-called vaccine that does not protect from infection, does not prevent spreading of the virus, and does not prevent death? At this point the long-term side effects are not known. But preliminary evidence suggests that pericardial inflammation, nerve damage, arterial inflammation and others are a good possibility.

The so-called vaccine is not the end all to this problem. Unfortunately treatment protocols are not being researched nor promulgated. Would that infected persons, regardless of vaccine status, were treated far fewer would die. Don't hang your hat on the vaccine. If we had combined the so-called vaccine with strong treatment protocols, hundreds of thousands would have recovered.

Carol Dean

Thank you, Mr. Braeking!

Bailey Jones

800,000 dead, Robert. How does this data compare with a normal influenza outbreak? It's all the flu deaths for the past 20 years, and then some.

Obviously, nothing can change your mind, so I'll move along.

Carol Dean

To me, it seems it would make more sense to share the Preventative Info that really works; not masks and jabs. Big Pharma and the government are working hand in hand. I do not know anyone who has been on the Frontline Doctors Protocol who has come down with the virus. This has now been over a two year period.

Michelle Aycoth

How many thousands of people have died from the new variant ?

Carol Dean

One person, as of today, has died from the new variant and low and behold...that happened in Houston.

My question is...How many thousands of illegals have crossed over into Texas and Arizona have NOT been jabbed?

Charles Douglas

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Ms Dean!! Ms Dean!!!! Now that was rabbit- punching right there, Lolo. We should not bother the poor Illegals, Terrorists, Fentanyl Distributors, Child & Sex Trafficktors coming in Here! They were invitited in by our Esteemed Wise Leader. Lolo.

They therefore are exempt from any prescribed shots, safety demands, or criticisizms coming from mere American citizens like us! Lololo!

Craig Mason

Dang illegals bringing that COVID over here. My nephew just tested positive this week, he hasn’t been in contact with any illegals,So those guys must be able to project it onto people. Man they are crafty. Galveston county should send another 6 million to the border. In WW2 it was the Jewish people, in the 60s it was the African Americans, in the 70s the hippies that were blamed for everything and now it’s the illegals. Why does some elusive boogeyman always have to be blamed?

Carlos Ponce

"he hasn’t been in contact with any illegals" How do you know? They don't wear placards indicating status. Does your nephew know you are stalking him and checking who he comes in contact with? Or does he report to you all his whereabouts and those he came in contact with? Sounds STRANGE to me!

Jim Forsythe

please report the above post as it is not correct and needs to be removed.

Carol Dean

Sorry, Jim. Maybe I should have specifically say that it was ONE person in the United States.

Craig Mason

So far one person for sure in Harris county

Jim Forsythe

The founder of the world's second-largest Christian TV network, which has persistently spread anti-vaccine theories, died Tuesday after contracting COVID.

Daystar Television, which reaches over 100 million American households and more than two billion people around the world, on Wednesday announced that founder Marcus Lamb had died at 64. Lamb had spent months railing against the COVID vaccine and his network hosted hours of interviews with anti-vaxxers. His network has frequently featured anti-vaccine guests like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Del Bigtree and Simone Gold, the founder of American Frontline Doctors. "We were trying to treat the covid and pneumonia with the different protocols we use, including the ones we talk about on Daystar. We used those — I myself used them and had breezed through covid," Lamb's wife, Joni Lamb, had said Tuesday of her husband's illness on their show on the network.

Numerous broadcasters who have spread misinformation about COVID or vaccines have died after contracting the virus in recent months, including Denver pastor Bob Enyart, Christian radio broadcaster Jimmy DeYoung and Florida radio hosts Marc Bernier and Dick Farrel.

After warnings of an omicron surge over the holidays, Harris County has reported its first death caused by the omicron variant of COVID-19.

The U.K. Health Security Agency reported that there have already been seven deaths and 85 hospitalizations related to the Omicron variant in the U.K. as of December 16.

Carol Dean

And there are thousands who have been jabbed and still have died. Don't forget the 10s of thousands in Africa,who died due to Fauci and Gates using them as guinea pigs.

Ted Gillis

Carol, I know of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people who have not contracted the virus by following the CDC guidelines. So your point is what?

Carol Dean

I know lots of people who have been jabbed and boosted who have STILL contacted the virus and those are just people in Galveston County. What is your point?

Craig Mason

Any of them die Carol? I know at least 4 unvaccinated who have died, no one vaccinated that I know have died. I will just follow my doctors advice. I figure he has spent his life devoted to medicine and taking care of people in his community. He recommends it and that’s good enough for me.

Jim Forsythe

Deaths among the unvaccinated during the week of August 8, at 13.23 per 100,000 population, while deaths among those who had been vaccinated with one of the three products remained under four per 100,000 that week. For the vaccinated, deaths were numerically highest among Johnson & Johnson recipients, at 3.14 per 100,000, followed by Pfizer at 1.43, and Moderna at 0.73.

Carol Dean

That's because you only follow the FAKE News! LOL! And in regards to your most recent posting in regards to the death of Simone Gold, somebody needs to let her know as she has still been posting on twitter. What in the ding, dong bell kind of link was that, that you posted!?!

Jim Forsythe

Daystar Television, which reaches over 100 million American households and more than two billion people around the world, on Wednesday announced that founder Marcus Lamb had died at 64. Lamb had spent months railing against the COVID vaccine and his network hosted hours of interviews with anti-vaxxers.

Jim Forsythe

Numerous broadcasters who have spread misinformation about COVID or vaccines have died after contracting the virus in recent months, including Denver pastor Bob Enyart, Christian radio broadcaster Jimmy DeYoung and Florida radio hosts Marc Bernier and Dick Farrel.

Bailey Jones

And they say God doesn't have a sense of humor.

Carlos Ponce

There are many who don't know the difference of dying with the Wuhan strain and dying FROM the Wuhan strain which represents only 6% of pandemic deaths according to CDC.

Carlos Ponce

"Numerous broadcasters" so numerous, Jim had to use BOTH hands to count them all.

Carol Dean

Not sure why bigjim insisted on posting a lie about Dr. Simone Gold's death!?! Unless it happened over the past 12 hours, he is getting desperate to prove some point. Dr. Gold remains alive and well!

Comment deleted.
Carlos Ponce

You can report yourself, Jim, to maintain an essence of credibility.

Bailey Jones

For those of you who are relying on "natural" immunity and those of you who are relying on omicron not being serious, I'll just point out that the unvaccinated Houston man who just died from omicron had been previously infected and had the so-called "natural" immunity.

Carlos Ponce

Harris County Public Health (HCPH) reports the man had "underlying health

conditions".

Carol Dean

3 thumbs up, Carlos!

Robert Braeking

Mr. Jones. You point to the 800,000 who have died from the China virus. How many of those lives could have been saved had early treatment been utilized. My mother contracted the disease in the nursing home. They administered zinc and Vitamin D. They did not use monoclonal antibodies, they did not use ivermectin (Yes this stuff works), they did not use ANY intervention. A full week after testing positive her respiratory distress was sufficient to get her admitted to hospital. It was too late. The cytokine storm was raging and she drowned in her own fluids needlessly. IMHO that was a severe case of medical malpractice. Your insistence on the Politburo's Party Line is a severe case of scientific malpractice. Trust the science. The scientific method questions all findings and postulates until they can be unequivocally proven.

Bailey Jones

Yes, Robert, always trust the science. But try to understand it first - by reading it first hand, not relying on secondhand info from politically suspect sources. My condolences for the loss of your mother. Do your kids a favor, and get vaccinated. The science says it will reduce the likelihood of you dying by at least 20X. This has been "unequivocally proven" in every hospital in the country.

Robert Braeking

Mr. Jones, Which so-called vaccination do you recommend? Currently the CDC is discussing the thrombosis side effect of the J&J formula. The mRNA preparations have potentially debilitating, if not lethal side effects. I trust the science. I do not trust the scientists. I do not trust the scientists who ignore natural immunity to the point that the CDC is not even keeping records of such. I do not trust the scientists who have not, concurrent with vaccination, been researching treatment protocols. I do trust the scientists who have developed treatment protocols and I have my prescriptions on hand should I become infected. I do trust the science that keeps me out of bars and restaurants until this is over. I do trust the science that tells me to take supplements to enhance my immune system. I do trust the science that tells me that obesity is the most prevalent co-morbidity. To that end I have lost 50 pounds of excess visceral fat. You warn about trusting information from politically suspect sources. The CDC and Dr. Fauci are the number one politically suspect sources.

Once again you are using statistics that, although possibly are true, are not painting the entire picture. Perhaps the unvaccinated are 20x more likely to succumb to the disease once hospitalized, yet you ignore the hundreds of millions of people who have not presented to the hospital because their early treatment cured them of the disease. You ignore the hundreds of millions of people who have not gotten the virus because they took precautions. You ignore the mild nature of the current variation that will possible give the entire population natural immunity from SarsCoV-2 for eternity.

Regardless the EUA for the vaccines they are still experimental. No one knows what the long term side effects are of the mRNA preparations to the point that the inventor, Robert Malone, has issued his caveats. How much more common will heart attacks be for those who have taken the vaccine? How much more common will blood clots, nerve damage, cognitive decline and other symptoms be among the vaccinated vs those who have not been vaccinated?

You and your sheeple friends can be coerced, threatened, and lied to with impunity. I cannot. I have weighed the risk vs the benefits of the vaccines and have, along with my doctor, determined that the experimental vaccines are much more risky for myself than the disease. I wish to neither encourage nor discourage anyone's decision. But I cannot, as you do, recommend the vaccines for everyone without considering their medical history and physician's recommendations.

Bailey Jones

Robert, I can see I'm not going to get anywhere with you. So, I'll leave you, and Carol, and Walter, and the SF Troll, to your "true science". Have a great holiday. If you see a jolly fat man running around in a red mask - it's not Santa, it's me.

Carol Dean

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Fear mongering seems to be the method of choice rather then allowing the public to easily view the True Science!

Carol Dean

I have NOT read anywhere that it says this man died FROM omicron, only that he "had" it along with other underlying conditions.

Jim Forsythe

Bailey, the first case of the omicron variant was detected in Harris County on Dec. 6.

December 20, 2021----We have gone to Dr, Peter Hotez saying "With so much omicron going around, my biggest concern are the doctors, nurses and staff of hospitals in the Texas Medical Center, and our surrounding area, who have to call out sick,"

The stress this is going to put on our health care system, in this area, is going to be huge.

Carol Dean

I have never been a fan of Dr. Hoetze! He has always been good at speaking out both sides of his mouth!

Carol Dean

You are absolutely correct! Stephen is the one with ALL of the money. Connect him to Jared Woodfill and you have double trouble! The two of them are Republicans who are NOT to be trusted!

Bailey Jones

Jim, you're right. The big threat from omicron (as far as we know) is that it is so contagious we will have a huge number of cases. Even if the cases aren't serious, every case comes with a 2-week quarantine, which means that our healthcare system will be even more understaffed and even less able to treat the surge in hospitalizations that we can expect. And the same thing applies across all services - we'll be short on teachers, truck drivers, first responders, workers of all types, which means more shortages, supply chain disruptions, and more inflation.

Vaccination has proven to be the only way to reduce the likelihood of serious illness.

Carlos Ponce

I believe I had Omicron. I felt tired with some muscle aches and a little cough. Then the next day I felt fine.

Carol Dean

LOL! I am 70 years young and I feel like that several days a week!

Carol Dean

So, Jimmy, in the hopes that you will sleep better tonight; as of 6pm CST, there is still only ONE reported death in the entire USA in regards to the new covid variant.

Jim Forsythe

The amount of time that has lapsed from December 6 is not enough to know how many will die from omicron per day.

Deaths often occur 2-8 weeks after the onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

What is more important, is the number of beds the new outbreak will fill.

Carol Dean

Good night, Jimmy. Enough Fear mongering.

Walter Dannenmaier

As an unvaccinated American, I'm looking at a winter of severe illness and death for myself and my family and the hospital that I may overwhelm. That will be UTMB for the record. You vaccinated folks have done the right thing and clearly lead lives of virtue and will surely be remembered in Heaven, in the unlikely event that you die at all. I would ask all the vaccinated to step outside tonight after dark to see if the light of your goodness brightens the winter sky. I will be desperately hanging on to existence, doubtful of seeing March 20th, 2022. By then, I expect all the other unvaccinated in Galveston County will be dead as well, leaving only compliant citizens, who follow the science, do what the government says, and eat their vegetables to inhabit the region. On the bright side, with so many dead unvaccinated by spring, perhaps real estate prices will normalize due to new vacancies. The Central Appraisal District will reward the vaccinated with a healthy increase in valuation. For the children, you know.

Bailey Jones

It's a holiday miracle! Merry Christmas, Walter! I like you even though we rarely agree.

Carol Dean

LOL! Yes, go to UTMB if you want to die. Their intervention protocol is nil. The problem is that the jabbed are following the WRONG science! There is no reason for anyone to contract the virus at all if they will follow the REAL Science, you know the stuff the government and Big Pharma won't allow you to readily see!?!

Robert Braeking

[beam][thumbup]

Carol Dean

Your commentary was "Spot On", sir!

Ted Gillis

Carol, Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Stephen Hotze are two different people. Dr. Hotze is the famous family herbal medicine doctor, while Dr Hotez is the famous Baylor physician specializing in tropical medicine. He’s also the one with a sandwich named after him on the Antones lunch menu in the medical center. I’ve had one and they are delicious.

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