FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- With the delta variant spreading rapidly and many still not vaccinated, Fort Bend County Judge KP George raised on Tuesday the county's COVID-19 threat level from yellow "moderate" to orange "significant" in the midst of spiking cases.
The first case of COVID-19 in Fort Bend County was identified about 17 months ago, and the virus is once again resurging, according to George.
The judge also reinstated social distancing protocols and will be bringing back health screenings at the entrances of all county buildings for employees and visitors. George also called on all county staff to wear masks and get vaccinated.
"Let's save lives," he said. "We cannot take this lightly. We have come such a long way."
Health officials were also present at the briefing and gave an update on COVID numbers.
An average of 195 new COVID cases are being reported each day, according to Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson Minter, the health and human services director of Fort Bend County. That's an increase of 149 cases per day over the previous month.
Hospitalizations for COVID-related illnesses are at 121 new patients per day, compared to 70 a day the previous month.
Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed to ABC13 that more than 8,700 Texans have died from COVID-19 since February. Of those deaths, 43 people were fully vaccinated.
Although over 60% of the county is vaccinated, George said several more are left at risk of spreading the variant. In fact, Minter said at least 84% of the virus circulating in Fort Bend County is of the delta variant.
But, according to Dr. Peter Hotez, the problem does not lie within the older community. It lies within the young adults and children.
"The flavor of the epidemic in the south is different because we have done a relatively good job of vaccinating older Americans," Hotez said.
He said many young adults think that just because they're staying healthy, eating right and going to the gym, they are not at risk of contracting the virus. He assured everyone this simply is not the case.
In fact, according to Minter, pediatric hospitals in the area have also seen an increase in hospitalizations due to respiratory illnesses over the past four weeks.
SEE RELATED STORY: Houston family thankful after RSV recovery in 20-month-old twin boys
"And things are about to get even worse as schools start to open," Hotez said.
He advised that all teachers and staff get the shot and continue to wear masks in the classrooms.
As of right now, schools are not required to have a mask mandate after Gov. Greg Abbott said he will not be imposing the mandate.
"Does Gov. Abbott care about me and the well-being of students in the great state of Texas?" one student asked at the briefing. "I encourage everyone to please wear masks and to get vaccinated, not just for yourself but for the safety of students like me."
According to our partners at The Texas Tribune, more than 8,700 Texans have died from COVID-19 since February. Of those deaths, 43 people were fully vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci just recently gave Americans a stern warning, saying "things will get worse."