Galveston County, we have a growing COVID-19 problem.
Reported cases of COVID-19 are growing at a faster rate since state officials eased restrictions meant to slow the spread. What this means is we are entering a potential window of higher risk. Infections are still controllable but require our attention and action.
According to recent figures, Galveston County is seeing substantial growth in cases, leading local health officials, businesses and residents to elevate protective measures to slow the numbers.
As recently as Saturday, the Galveston County Health District recorded 142 new cases — a significant daily increase, particularly when compared to numbers dating back to March 13.
At the end of May, Galveston County reported 871 cases; as of Monday, the county total was 1,968. This compounding rate should concern even those most hardened to the threat of the virus. Confirmed cases, and therefore the spread risk, is on the rise.
The increase in positive cases is not a matter of increased testing, although the number of tests being reported each day is up to an average of about 700 from about 500. The percentage of those coming back positive has risen to about 12 percent, however, from a rate as low as 0.5 percent.
The critical elements of COVID-19 we should consider when comparing to the standard flu rates are the 3-to-1 spread factor (1-to-1 with standard flu), a higher death rate, and — importantly — there is not yet an effective vaccine.
Officially, of the 1,867 cases, 660 people medically recovered, and 40 have died. And of those, many carried underlying medical risk factors. But they were our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens, too.
Slowing down or stopping testing is not going to help the science of understanding this pandemic. Reporting helps us understand and determine the infection and death rates. Testing, like the research, must continue.
Businesses throughout Galveston County are only now reopening. And while many have invested in installing safety barriers and new health-oriented protocols, there remains a risk. As we have seen, an infection of a staff member can lead to the re-closing of businesses by responsible and concerned owners.
Harris County has issued orders for all residents to wear masks or other facial coverings.
Over the weekend, Mayor Bobby Hocking issued a proclamation urging residents of La Marque to wear masks but stopped short of enacting fines for people who don’t comply.
Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough issued an order Monday requiring people to wear masks.
Expect this trend to continue until we can get this pandemic under control.
Remember, all the masks, hand washing and social distancing won’t eradicate the virus. A vaccine will need to come from the medical community. As socially responsible citizens, our role is to work to slow the spread of the virus so as not to overwhelm our medical systems.
Let’s make sure we do all we can to practice socially responsible behavior while balancing the needs of our daily lives.
Finally, the mask is not for you. It’s a simple, effective way to prevent infecting other people. Most health authorities believe wearing a mask reduces the spread of airborne particles containing coronavirus.
It’s also a sign you care about others. Wearing a mask says you are willing to put others ahead of yourself.
Mask up, Galveston County. Let’s show we care about each other.
• Leonard Woolsey