Nearly 120 people have died of COVID-19 in Harris County safety net hospitals since Jan. 1 — none of whom were fully vaccinated, according to Harris Health System president and CEO Dr. Esmaeil Porsa.
As COVID-19 cases begin to climb throughout the state, Harris County hospitals are once again finding themselves on the frontlines of an uphill battle, as a combination of low vaccination rates among Texans and the increased spread of the highly contagious delta variant has resulted in a steady climb in hospitalizations over the past few weeks — with the statewide COVID-19 positivity rate surpassing 10% over the weekend.
“Almost three weeks ago we got to a situation where one of my hospitals, LBJ Hospital, had only one COVID-19 patient in the entire hospital,” he said. “On Friday, there were back up to 14 patients again.”
Porsa, who made the comments on Houston Matters Monday, added that most of the 119 deaths this year were among the elderly.
The data tracks with trends across the country, as incresingly, unvaccinated Americans have faced worse outcomes than those who have gotten fully vaccinated. On Friday, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the situation “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
The COVID-19 positivity rate in Harris County has more than doubled in the past month, jumping to 6.4%, according to data from Harris County Public Health.
Almost 44% of eligible Harris County residents have been fully vaccinated, with 51% having received at least one dose. However, the rate of vaccinations have decreased significantly over the past few months, exacerbating a spread that has only gotten worse with the introduction of the more transmissable delta variant, according to Porsa.
Porsa warned that the virus would continue to mutate as long as a majority of people aren’t vaccinated, and worried about the possibility of a mutation that could be immune to the vaccinations that are currently available.
“We’re basically going to turn the clock back to March of 2020,” he said. “And that day is coming if we continue to not heed the warning that is right now upon us.”
Dr. Wesley Long with Houston Methodist Hospital said the increase in cases was being felt across the entirety of the Texas Medical Center.
“It’s not just something we’re seeing here at Houston Methodist,” Long said. “It’s a trend we’re seeing unfortunately at hospitals across the medical center with increasing number of positive tests, increasing percentage of positivity and increasing hospitalizations.”
According to the TMC website, the number of hospitalizations nearly doubled last week throughout the medical center.
Long said that most of those hospital admissions are among unvaccinated people.