Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo at a Monday afternoon press conference confirmed the county’s first COVID-19 death attributed to the Omicron variant, per the Houston Chronicle’s Sam Gonzalez Kelly.
“I know for folks in Harris County this feels like whiplash,” Hidalgo said. “We saw the downward trend in hospitalizations and cases only to see things trend back up again, and it is so frustrating. I feel it, too.”
The deceased was a male resident in his 50s who lived in Harris County Precinct Two, according to Hidalgo, who cautioned the public against overlooking the latest new variant.
“I feel the impulse to tune out the latest news and just be sick and tired of all this,” Hidalgo said. “But as we’ve been expecting, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has arrived in full force.”
Hours earlier Hidalgo had tweeted her decision to raise the county’s official COVID-19 threat status to Level 2: Orange, a distinction signifying a “significant” threat of viral spread in the community. The decision was made in light of tripling COVID-19 positivity rates reported in the last week at Houston Methodist and the Texas Medical Center. According to Gonzalez Kelly, hospitalizations at the medical center have spiked from “about 68 people per day to about 110” over recent weeks.
On Saturday, CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner described the contagious nature of the Omicron strain, likening the variant to measles and warning of a “tsunami” of positive cases in coming weeks and months.
“This Omicron variant is extraordinarily contagious,” Reiner said. “It’s as contagious as measles, and that’s about the most contagious virus that we’ve seen.”