Galveston Co. ready for 'difficult times ahead' after COVID-19 spike

GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Galveston County got an F-rating when it comes to practicing social distancing as coronavirus cases continue to spike at an alarming rate, said county health officials.

In a COVID-19 briefing held on Wednesday, the county's local health authority, Dr. Philip Keiser, said there has been a dramatic increase in cases just in the last two weeks.

"We're very worried," he said.

He said there are a total of 1,486 COVID-19 cases in the county and a quarter of those have popped up in the last week.

Keiser announced 100 more tests have been reported, though, it's unclear how many of those tests came back positive.

"I wouldn't be surprised if, by the end of the day, we get a report that we have as many as 40 people hospitalized," said Keiser. "We have data from some of the cell phone companies that show that in Galveston County, less than 7 percent of the people are social distancing, and they give our county an 'F' in terms of social distancing."

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced COVID-19 patients represent more than 10 percent of hospital bed capacity in Galveston County.

However, Keiser said that remark was inaccurate.

"That was actually an incorrect statistic," said Keiser. "When we investigated that, we found that the governor's office was actually using combined statistics from around the region to get that number and then attributing all to Galveston."

In seeking to explain trends on Tuesday, Abbott pointed to temporary spikes in positive tests in some isolated areas. But he also suggested young people specifically are not taking the virus seriously enough, saying there are "certain counties where a majority of the people who are testing positive ... are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bar-type settings."

READ MORE: Gov. Abbott suggests Texans under 30 ignored virus warning signs

Galveston County's average age of people who tested positive last week was 30, Keiser said.

He adds the average age of those who were getting tested was 40.

"We want people to double down on social distancing," he said. "If we stop doing the things that we need to do, then it shouldn't surprise anyone that the numbers are going to dramatically increase."

Keiser also announced the county will now be offering antibody testing as part of the county testing program. The antibody test is free of charge and will be available to those who work and live in Galveston County.

"I think we're at a critical juncture," said Keiser. "I think it's important that everybody does their part, but I think that we're looking at some pretty difficult times ahead."

DETAILS: See demographic breakdown of cases by community

Action 13: Connecting your questions with answers
Coronavirus: How do you know if you've recovered?
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.