Photo: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Staff Photographer
Houston and Texas must take significant action before the weekend arrives to fight the spread of COVID-19, warns Houston’s internationally-renowned infectious disease expert, Dr. Peter Hotez.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Hotez has lent his expertise on Texas’ response to the deadly coronavirus. He serves as dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and is currently developing a vaccine for COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Texas saw 5,489 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. In an interview with Chron.com on Wednesday, Hotez called that uptick “horrifying.”
Question: Now that Texas has hit 5,489 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, what are your thoughts about Houston becoming the next epicenter of the pandemic?
Hotez: “It’s absolutely horrifying. I’m terribly upset about what I see happening. There were some predictive models out of Pennsylvania that actually showed this. This is why I didn’t want Texas to open up as early it did. “
Question: What are your thoughts about the possibility of a second shutdown? What do you think should be done?
Hotez: “We have to implement a significant level of social distancing. Now, we have no choice. We have to take action before the weekend. At the minimum, we must focus on the metropolitan areas–Houston, San Antonio and Austin. We are already reaching a dire health crisis in Houston, and it will only get worse.”
Question: Do you think after yesterday’s high numbers that Houston should actually be at a red alert on coronavirus threat level?
Hotez: “I think we should be red alert for coronavirus threat level. We need to head in that direction. Six months into this epidemic, and we’re basically to square one.”
Question: During a U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee meeting yesterday, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) warned that the current trajectory in Houston has the city on pace to be one of the worst affected cities in the U.S. comparing it to Brazil. Olson even called it, “damn scary.” Thoughts on this?
Hotez: “I think the congressman has been reading my social media page. That unfortunately is the situation we may be in, unless we do something. The default plan if we don’t do anything is that the cases rise until we reach herd immunity. Those numbers would continue to rise vertically.”
Question: What is your message to Texans and all Americans about the COVID-19 surge?
Hotez: “Nationally, this is one of the biggest public health failings in the history of the U.S. We have a vaccine that we are hoping to advance this time next year. This pandemic is not getting better on its own. This is a public health crisis that we share with Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. We need to make an urgent plan to take action before the weekend.”