Houston COVID-19 Report: Omicron Found in Wastewater, Officials Say

houston covid coronavirus report

Getty Houston Fire Department paramedics transport a Covid-19 positive woman to a hospital on September 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Texas' Harris County continues to see large number of Covid-19 hospitalizations due to the Delta variant surge in the state.

Houston and Harris County are at a moderate threat level for the coronavirus today, December 7, 2021, as new cases of COVID-19 were reported this week and omicron has been detected, according to the Harris County Public Health and the Houston Department of Health. Health officials said the omicron variant of COVID-19 was found in Houston wastewater, and a Harris County woman became the first person in Texas to test positive for the variant.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a White House press briefing December 7 that omicron may be less severe than the delta variant, while emphasizing that the data is anecdotal and may be effected by the high numbers of younger people contracting the variant.

He said:

It’s too early to be able to determine the precise severity of disease, but inklings that we are getting — and we must remember these are still in the form of anecdotal, but hopefully in the next few weeks we’ll get a much clearer picture.

But it appears that with the cases that are seen, we are not seeing a very severe profile of disease. In fact, it might be — and I underscore ‘might’ — be less severe, as shown by the ratio of hospitalizations per number of new cases. However, this could be influenced by the fact that many in this particular cohort are young individuals. The hospital stays seems to be less and the use of supplemental oxygen needs to be less.

Again, I caution you, these are still preliminary.

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Here’s what you need to know:

Omicron Has Been Reported in Houston’s Wastewater & a Harris County Woman Tested Positive for the Variant

Houston health officials announced Monday, December 6, the omicron variant has been detected in Houston wastewater. There are no confirmed cases of the variant in the city, officials said Monday evening. The information is “the first indication the new variant is in Houston,” officials said.

The wastewater samples were collected November 29 and 30, 2021, and indicated the variant was present in eight of the city’s 39 wastewater treatment plants: W.C.I.D. #111, Chocolate Bayou, Keegans Bayou, Metro Central, Northgate, Sims Bayou North, Turkey Creek, and West District. The announcement was made after officials received genomic sequencing results confirming the variant, officials said.

“The Houston Health Department and Houston Water continue to do an exceptional job tracking the impact of the virus in our community. While no specific case of the Omicron variant has been confirmed in an individual in the city of Houston, we should use this information as a reminder to get fully vaccinated, including a booster shot,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner in a statement. “Vaccines help protect us, our loved ones, friends, and colleagues in the work environment. As the holidays approach, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant about their health and safety.”

Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the City of Houston, said Omicron in the city “is cause for concern but not panic.”

In Harris County, a woman in her 40s tested positive for the variant, becoming the first confirmed Omicron patient in Texas, health officials announced Monday evening. She lives in the northwestern part of the county, officials said. Officials added that she is fully vaccinated and has not required hospitalization as of the time of the announcement Monday evening.

8,418 Active Cases of COVID-19 Were Reported in Harris County & Houston as of December 6, 2021

The Harris County Public Health and the Houston Department of Health reported 8,148 active cases of COVID-19 in their latest dataset, updated December 6, 2021. That number is roughly quadruple the number of active cases reported this time last year, with 2,100 cases in the same region December 6, 2021, according to data reports.

There have been a total of 588,100 confirmed cases in the city of Houston and Harris County as of December 6, with 6,587 deaths and 573,059 patients recovered. About 1% of coronavirus patients have died, according to the data.

The majority of cases are reported in Houston. As of December 6, the city of Houston reported 5,335 active cases, or 65% of the total cases. Harris County reported 3,083 active cases.

Dr. Bradley Lembcke, senior vice president and chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Health, told Click 2 Houston the number of cases dropped to an all-time low in recent weeks, followed by a slight uptick in reported cases.

“We had recovered to one of our best levels about three weeks ago,” Lembcke told the news outlet. “Our Texas division was incredibly low, it was in the 30s. So, many of our hospitals had zero COVID cases.”

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