COVID-19 testing has increased in Houston following the holidays, as the omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state, health officials said.
Health officials told KHOU 11 that the testing increase indicates that people are monitoring their health, which will help combat the spread of the virus.
Health officials set the threat level for the area at level 2: significant threat, asking residents to minimize contacts unless fully vaccinated. The COVID-19 data hub said there were 26,818 active cases of the coronavirus as of December 26, 2021. There have been 6,713 deaths, the data hub shows.
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Uptick in COVID-19 Testing a Positive Sign, Said Health Officials
Long lines have been reported at COVID-19 testing sites in and around Houston, which health officials told KHOU 11 is a positive sign that people are monitoring their health.
“It is gratifying to see the general public going out going to testing centers,” infectious disease specialist Dr. Linda Yancey told the news outlet.
Some locals told the news outlet they waited in lines to be tested.
“When I tried to scramble to find this one, I said, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a line because everyone is in the same situation … trying to get tested,'” Greta Brown told the news outlet.
Ignitia Battaglia said she waited in line for about 40 minutes to be tested.
Yancey told KHOU 11 that it is important to keep in touch with family and friends after seeing them in person, to notify one another of any symptoms.
“That way, if someone turns out to be sick and not known it, you can spread that information about that exposure from the entire group,” Yancey told KHOU 11.
She added that at-home COVID-19 tests have limitations.
“At-home tests have a high false-negative rate, but if you are having symptoms and you test negative with an at-home test, go and have that backed up with a PCR test,” she told KHOU 11.
Yancey noted the importance of vaccinations in her interview with the news outlet.
“Just to remind everyone it absolutely not too late to get the vaccine and it’s certainly not too late to get the booster,” she said.
Houston Independent School District Maintains Mask Mandate as Omicron Spreads
Houston Independent School District Superintendent Millard House II said in a statement to Houston Public Media that it will maintain its mask mandate for 2022.
“Please know that we continue to work closely with health officials to monitor data and take additional steps, as needed,” House said in the statement. “The safety of our students, staff, and families will remain our top priority and continue to guide our decisions as we navigate unprecedented times.”
The district’s COVID-19 dashboard said there were 403 reported active cases on Monday, and 308 of those were students. The trend is similar across the state, data from Texas shows. Public schools in Texas reported 3,125 new COVID-19 cases among students during the week of Dec. 5, which was a sharp increase from previous data which indicated there were 434 new reports during the week of Nov. 21.
Andrew Dewy of the Houston Federation of Teachers told the news outlet the union was in agreement on the mandate.
“We are desperate to keep schools open. We don’t want to go back to where we were when schools were closed,” Dewy said, according to the article. “We know that the face-to-face education is the most effective education, and so we are in favor of any measure that will help keep schools open.”