Health experts remind Houstonians to follow safety guidelines this weekend

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As COVID-19 cases spike around the state and metro, health experts are urging people to use caution when celebrating the Fourth of July.

Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, who is an assistant professor of Infectious Diseases at the Baylor College of Medicine, warns we could have another spike similar to the one following Memorial Day weekend unless people get serious about following social distancing.

"All of us are very concerned about what's going on right now in Houston, our county, and in Texas in general," he said. "The risk of large groups of people coming together for Fourth of July and celebrations is that we could potentially see accelerated case growth or potentially, worst case scenario, overwhelming the healthcare system. So we really want to avoid those kinds of possibilities."

The onset of symptoms for COVID-19 is generally one to two weeks.

RELATED: What one doctor believes will happen if 4th of July is repeat of Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, the Texas Medical Center reported 47 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Two weeks later, it increased to 98.

Still, it's too early to know if Father's Day weekend contributed to the spike we're seeing now, but Kulkarni said super-spreading generally happens in large gatherings when a person is symptomatic.

"The more people you have together, the higher the risk that there's going to be a lot of spread, and then a potential super-spreader type of event that makes things dramatically worse," Kulkarni said. "Smaller groups, it still could happen, but it's less, of course, because the number of people who are coming is less."

Kulkarni suggests people choose virtual events over large gatherings or host a small gathering with limited guests, face masks and social distancing.

"The size definitely makes a difference, and then how many people. How long people are together is very important, and then what kind of environment. Are they sort of very enclosed in a kind of a tight space, or are they very spread out in an outdoor setting?" Kulkarni said.

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