Houston‘s latest COVID-19 data shows reason to be cautiously optimistic after the region’s transmission rate fell for the third consecutive week. But health officials are still urging caution because only one-third of the population is vaccinated.
Texas is also making national headlines for other reasons, as the debate continues around Joe Rogan’s podcast guest comments about the coronavirus vaccines and health complications. Spotify is facing criticism because they did not ban misinformation, while others say free speech is paramount.
Public health officials continue to advise those who are not fully vaccinated to stay home, maintaining a Level 1 threat for the area. According to the COVID-19 data hub, there were 159,530 active cases of the coronavirus in the area as of Monday, January 31, 2022 and 6,941 deaths. The number of active cases within a week dropped for the first time in weeks between January 24 and January 31. On January 24, there were 160,656 active cases of COVID-19, following several weeks in a row when the numbers of active cases nearly doubled. There were 61 deaths reported in the last week.
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New Data Confirms Omicron Is Lessening Its Grip on Houston But Hospitals Continue to Be Strained
The Texas Medical Center reported new data January 31 that shows transmission rates in the region dropped for the third week in a row. The transmission rate for the week ending January 31 was 0.74, meaning those infected with COVID-19 spread it to less than one person on average, the data shows.
Hospital admission rates were also declining, according to the data. But hospitals are still feeling the strain, the data shows, with ICUs in the area 95% full and with some ICUs at maximum capacity.
Dr. Peter Hotez, a Baylor College of Medicine virologist, told the Houston Chronicle it is not yet time for celebration.
“The big picture, I’m still concerned about,” he told the newspaper. “There’s a lot of happy talk about omicron somehow acting as a weakened virus, herd immunity and the end of the pandemic. I do not think so yet.”
Spotify, Rogan Comment on Misinformation Controversy & Protest
Spotify and Joe Rogan are speaking out to the Associated Press following a protest and controversy regarding COVID-19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy. Last week, Neil Young requested his music be removed from Spotify after the company declined to remove episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which Young criticized for misinformation. Spotify announced Sunday, January 30, 2022, it would add a warning to all podcasts that discuss COVID-19, and refer its listeners to the latest information from health experts.
Rogan interviewed Dr. Robert Malone on his podcast in December, stirring the Spotify controversy. The Associated Press described Malone as “an infectious disease specialist who has become a hero in the anti-vaccine community” and who was banned on Twitter for misinformation. Rogan told the AP he was “very happy” with Spotify’s decision to add a warning and said he would include more guests with “differing opinions.”
“I’m not trying to promote misinformation, I’m not trying to be controversial,” Rogan told the AP. “I’ve never tried to do anything with this podcast other than to just talk to people.”
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told the AP he does not believe his company should be in the role of content censor. He said there are “plenty of individuals and views on Spotify that I disagree with strongly,” and added, “It is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.”