Houston Coronavirus Update May 8, 2020
Updated: May 15, 2020
Governor Abbott's reopening plan is in full swing. Phase III is due to begin next week on May 11 with the initiation of expanded testing sites and contact tracing efforts. You can read more about Governor Abbott's plan here: https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/organization/opentexas/OpenTexas-Report.pdf
Currently available testing sites are listed here: https://txdps.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=8bf7c6a436a64bfe9a5ce25be580e4ff Searching on Google also brings up some additional sites that may require appointments or referrals. I do have a limited stock of test kits available, so if you believe you need to be tested please contact me and we can arrange this.
The best data I have seen for our local case load comes from the Texas Medical Center. This data is based on a collection of data from all the hospital systems throughout Greater Houston. Our daily new case load has been fluctuating around 200 cases per day, there has not been a meaningful decrease since last week. It will take a full 2 weeks for us to see the impact that reopening has had on case loads. TMC data is available here: https://www.tmc.edu/coronavirus-updates/
As I mentioned last week, a key aspect of Governor Abbott's plan is to continue to expand testing capabilities as well as the ability to trace contacts of positive cases so that they can self-quarantine and limit spread. This is vitally important to limiting the spread of disease while allowing most people to return to whatever will be our "new normal." Contact tracing has been a key aspect of controlling the pandemic in those countries that were able to do so earlier on, such as South Korea and New Zealand. However, our ability to trace contacts currently is still limited. According to the plan I linked above, the full force is planned to be initiated by May 11. It is therefore my professional opinion and recommendation to maintain distancing procedures as follows until this is fully in place:
1. Continue to avoid unnecessary trips into public places.
2. Continue to avoid gatherings with friends and family who do not live with you, especially in close quarters, and especially in groups of over 10 people. If you are choosing to expand your contacts to those outside of your home, I recommend that you limit this to only a few people who are only otherwise interacting with you.
3. Maintain at least 6ft of distance from others. Know that a 6ft distance does not 100% prevent spread, it only decreases it.
4. Continue to work remotely whenever possible.
5. If you must be out in public or are unable to perform your job remotely, please wear a face covering and insist that those around you do the same. You wearing a mask protects others, others wearing a mask protects you.
6. If you are of a vulnerable population (elderly, pregnancy, serious underlying health conditions including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy)- please avoid going out in public as much as possible. If you can, have a friend or relative deliver groceries to you.
Regarding antibody testing: The IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America) guidelines that were released this week still did not provide additional information to support widespread use of antibody testing at this time. Currently I do not recommend antibody testing except in specific clinical situations. If you are interested in antibody testing, please schedule a telemedicine appointment with me to discuss whether it is appropriate for your case.