Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, though I think you already suspected this.
COVID-19 cases are rising across Texas two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday, echoing last year’s surge of the omicron variant.
There are more than 18,000 positive cases across the state this week, up from a little over 7,000 the week of Thanksgiving.
“Thanksgiving this year was kind of like PTSD,” said epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina, author of Your Local Epidemiologist. “I think all of us epidemiologists were holding our breath, just to make sure this was going to be a regular Thanksgiving.”
While hospitalizations and deaths are still low thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations and the updated bivalent booster that targets omicron, cases have been steadily climbing since November.
The change this year, Jetelina said, is the combination of flu, RSV, and now COVID. The Texas Department of State Health Services reports the intensity of influenza-like illness has remained “very high” in the past few weeks, with an increase in the number of influenza outbreaks and more than 28,000 positive flu tests in the week ending in Dec. 3.
“RSV and flu are just back with vengeance,” she said. “We’re starting to get a sneak peek of what this new normal is.”
Other states, like New York, have issued a health advisory to encourage people to mask indoors while cases are high. Jetelina said it’s important to think about protecting the most vulnerable members of the community, like the elderly and folks who are immunocompromised.
“I’m going to have 90-year-old people at my house for Christmas this year,” she said. “That, to me, means I am wearing an N-95 mask in public everywhere I go the week before Christmas. It helps ensure I don’t miss the event because I’m sick, but it also helps break that transmission chain so I don’t bring it to my grandparents.”
She says it’s not too late to get vaccinated to protect against COVID and the flu.
“I’m tired, everyone’s tired, [but] the virus isn’t tired of us,” she said.
We saw this coming in October, and we know what a “tripledemic” is. The virus levels in the wastewater are high. You know what I’m going to tell you: Get your bivalent booster and your flu shot. Wear that mask in crowded indoor spaces. Isolate yourself if you feel sick. Think about the high-risk people in your life. We’re not in 2020 any more, and the current dominant strains are thankfully not as virulent as delta was. You really can do a lot to maximize your safety while giving up very little. But you have to actually do it.