New study says Harris County might have drastic rise in COVID-19 cases in next few weeks

ByRoxanne Bustamante KTRK logo
Friday, May 22, 2020
COVID-19 cases might rise drastically soon in Harris Co.
An expert says Harris County was an outlier among other U.S. counties for an increase in COVID-19 cases. He also said this increase can be prevented.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A new study from the University of Pennsylvania shows Harris County could see a projected surge of COVID-19 cases in June.

Public health officials are concerned that Memorial Day weekend could cause a wave of new cases if people are not taking precautions.

READ MORE: As Memorial Day tempts people outdoors, coronavirus rebound feared

Professor Jeffrey Morris, PhD, who used to live in Houston for many years, said the numbers are alarming.

"The most alarming thing to me is, of all the counties in the whole United States, Harris County jumped out as an extreme outlier," he said. "No other county had this type of this major growth projected, so that was what was very striking to me."

He said the model suggests that Houston and Harris County is in the right situation for a surge, but that it can be prevented.

SEE ALSO: Dr. Peter Hotez says lack of social distancing could cause spike in cases later

Houston's infectious disease guru Dr. Peter Hotez worries about cases spiking in several months.

"If people recognized what a danger this really was and voluntarily started following these (CDC) guidelines, it could be controlled, and you wouldn't have a surge, and businesses could be open to a larger extent," Morris said.

Elya Franciscus, an epidemiologist with Harris County Public Health, said the number of cases in Harris County have been steady, and the health department's numbers do not reflect the findings in this study.

"We always take modeling and these findings with a lot of precaution when we're interpreting these results," Franciscus said. "These numbers are merely projections. In house, we're running our own modeling, and that doesn't show a spike that you are seeing."

What can you do to prevent this surge from happening?

Franciscus and Morris both agree that people need to follow CDC guidelines, practice social distancing, avoid crowds, and wear a mask.

"Stay home. Work safe," Franciscus said. "Don't become complacent. Wear your face coverings. Wash your hands. Be socially distant. These are just things that will have to become the new norm for a long time."