As COVID-19 cases increase in the region, the City’s Medical Advisor Dr. Joe Anzaldua is encouraging citizens to follow the “3 Ws” – wear a face mask, watch your distance and wash your hands. See Dr. Anzaldua’s latest update below:
“The use of face masks and even vaccinations are controversial with many weighing in with differing opinions. Also federal government agencies responsible for setting public health policy and guidance have put out what appears to be conflicting information. Controversy among experts as well as some media misinformation has no doubt lead to distrust among a lot of people. Messaging has been inadequate, especially with our most vulnerable and underserved populations. This has not made it any easier for us to provide a unified message with respect to public health guidance and policy recommendations.
Over the past several days I have been watching reports indicating a rise in COVID-19 cases, both locally and nationally. The Texas medical center is also reporting an increase in COVID-19 effective reproduction rate as well as testing positivity rates. In addition more breakthrough cases amongst previously infected as well as vaccinated individuals are being identified and reported. To help provide clarity and direction, I offer the following information for your consideration and invite further discussion.
Although this is not being mentioned a whole lot at the moment, based on the current numbers, I believe we are entering (or have already entered) a fourth wave. On July 22, Harris County’s COVID-19 threat level was raised from yellow to orange. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Fort Bend County follows suit by going back to their previous higher community risk level.
And although there has been an increase in hospital admissions to general beds and the ICU, this current surge is not expected to overwhelm our hospital systems. And hopefully that remains the case. And unfortunately, we are also seeing an increase in deaths among residents of nursing homes. The rise in cases is probably due to the increased transmissibility (but probably not more virulent) of the delta variant, and the fact that vaccination rates appear to be flat or declining.
I do not expect that this current surge will be as bad as the previous ones. This is mainly due to our current vaccinations which seem to still be protective, even with the delta variant which is now considered our predominant strain. So although there is an increase in cases it is unlikely that we will see serious illness or even death among those who are fully vaccinated. Another way to put this, is that the overwhelming majority of hospital admissions for serious illness are those Individuals that are not vaccinated.
With respect to breakthrough cases, please keep in mind that these cases are relatively rare. As of July 12, more than 159 million people in the United States had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Of those, just 5,492 had breakthrough cases that resulted in serious illness, including 1,063 who died. That is less than 0.0007 percent of the vaccinated population! Meanwhile, 99 percent of deaths from Covid-19 are among the unvaccinated.
But please keep in mind what our public health objective is here: We are trying to prevent a peak as bad as previous in terms of case numbers. “Long COVID” symptoms are becoming more common and more are being reported, so this is also a public health concern. In addition, increased transmission gives way to possibility of even more variants where vaccine may not be effective or variants that are more virulent, and as I alluded to earlier, we still have a large percentage of the population that cannot be vaccinated and is vulnerable.
Although there is no mandate to wear face masks, pursuant to Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent executive order, I think it would be reasonable and prudent at this time and to the extent permitted by law, to strongly encourage the use of face masks indoors for all individuals – unvaccinated as well as partially/fully vaccinated individuals. I do not believe that encouraging the use of facemasks indoors is in conflict with the Governor’s executive order. So, no mandate, just strong encouragement. And, in order not to stigmatize those that want to wear masks, maybe we should use the “wear mask OPTIONAL” approach.
It is probably a good idea to reinstitute or reemphasize some non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) such as the “3 Ws” that I have mentioned in the past:
- Wear a face mask
- Watch your distance
- Wash your hands
In conclusion, I still believe that the key to ending this pandemic is vaccination. We are not likely to eradicate SARS-CoV-2 in our lifetime but we certainly can (and will) put the brakes on this pandemic. To this end, we must still make every effort to encourage getting vaccinated. We need to redouble our efforts on getting this message out.”
For more updates, please watch the City website: www.missouricitytx.gov, like us on Facebook—fb/MissouriCityTX, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat—@MissouriCityTX and Nextdoor, watch Missouri City Television (Ch. 16 on Comcast and Ch. 99 on AT&T) or download the MCTX Mobile app (available for free in Google Play and the Apple app store).