Most COVID-19 patients are young and warmer weather is not helping, experts say

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With businesses slowly reopening and people venturing outside of their homes during the summer months, experts are warning COVID-19 should still be something to take precautions against.

ABC13 spoke with Houston health experts, Dr. David Persse and Dr. Umair Shah, about the latest effects of reopening businesses and warmer weather on the coronavirus.

"Hospitalization numbers are going up," said Persse, public health authority for the Houston Health Department. "The average age of persons being admitted is getting younger, and that makes sense to me. So, we're clearly not out of the woods."

READ MORE: Texas Medical Center sees 40 percent increase in coronavirus hospitalizations

As the number of cases has increased, so has the number of businesses who began serving dine-in to customers.

"Reopening absolutely has had an effect," said Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health. "The reopening was happening faster than what we locally would have liked. The state made a decision that it was going to move forward with the reopening, and we didn't have any input in that. We have no way to slow it down or put any brakes on that. We're really now seeing that downward effect in the local community."

More families are also choosing to leave their homes after being stuck inside during months of stay-home mandates.

"People think, 'Hey, you know, we did this for a few months, we're done,'" Shah said.
Shah cited this as 'quarantine fatigue,' and expressed concern that people are relaxing social distancing as they go outside. But, reopening and safety are not mutually exclusive, he said.

And, with the school year ending for many districts and the beginning of summer break for many students, spending time outside is expected. But, warmer weather, first predicted by many experts that could lead to a decrease in the virus, isn't doing much to actually decrease COVID-19.

"One thing that I had hoped for is, I think many did, was that warmer weather was going to slow down the virus, and that [does] not seem to be the case," said Persse.

Reopening, and everything that comes with it, can still be done safely, said Shah.

"If you've got two restaurants, one restaurant that's following health protocols, and one that's not, vote with your feet," he said. "We may be tired of this virus, but this virus is not tired of us. And we've got to do everything we can not to be complacent with this virus because it remains deadly."

Meanwhile, a Heights-area daycare remains closed after a staffer tested positive for COVID-19.

The Principrin Daycare closed on Wednesday, and workers tell ABC13 it will reopen on Monday. That daycare is not the first or the last business that had to shutter and reopen in the midst of COVID-19.

Public health officials warn more situations like that will continue to happen.

"It's making me a little anxious right now," said Persse. "I'm not scared, but I'm clearly paying attention to hospitalization numbers are going up."

Persse points to the rising hospitalization rates as a major worry for medical professionals. He said it's clear that we are seeing more cases of COVID-19 as the community reopens.

Plus, Texas restaurants were allowed to increase its capacity limits to 75 percent on Friday. Many, including Ouzo Bay, part of the Atlas Restaurant Group, are doing their best to maintain cleanliness and still operate a business.

"What we try to do is establish a comfort ability for our guest," said Scott Sulma of Atlas. "When they see the level of detail we've taken and the precautions, they are able to sit back and relax and enjoy themselves."

Houston health officials said the COVID-19 hospitalizations are from various phases of the state reopening and other activities. They said it's too early for hospitalization data related to the George Floyd protests to show up.

"I would be very reluctant dependent on any one event," he said. "As far as the protests are concerned, it's about two weeks or so after an event, we start seeing the people in the hospital. So, it's probably still a little bit early to see that."

However, the health department is helping the police department be proactive by setting up testing for hundreds of officers who want to be tested.

"We have seen a slight increase recently in the number of employees testing positive and are working diligently to ensure first responders' health so we can continue to serve," said HPD Chief Art Acevedo in a statement.

On Thursday, Harris County unveiled a COVID-19 threat level alert system and the county is reportedly in level orange, meaning there is significant community spread. Still, Persse and other health officials are aware there are people in the community who simply do not believe health experts, and that makes fighting COVID-19 especially difficult.

"I think I am beyond the part of being frustrated because, it's an emotional reaction," he said. "I've just accepted the fact that there are people who are just going to be in denial, and I can't change that, and I hope and I pray that they don't get sick."

SEE ALSO: Doctors fear COVID-19 outbreak after George Floyd march in Houston
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