Yes, we’re sick of it too.
The bottles of hand sanitizer, the piles of masks and the never-ending numbers — cases, hospitalizations, transmission rates.
COVID-19 fatigue has long since set in.
But the virus that first swept over East Texas more than two years ago doesn’t care about our feelings, and it isn’t going anywhere. It just keeps changing and evolving, leaving us to endure a steady cycle of infection surges.
The latest wave has arrived along with summer’s swelter, and we have COVID-19’s latest variant to blame — or, more precisely, its subvariants.
COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the East Texas region and the high level of community transmission rates can be attributed to the subvariants’ contagiousness, a local health official said.
Case counts of COVID-19 are still rising in Smith County, but community transmission has lessened slightly since Monday, according to the most recent data from the Northeast Texas Public Health District.
Just this month, Smith County has already surpassed the total amount of cases in all of June. And case numbers most definitely are higher than official data shows since the Northeast Texas Public Health District, which oversees COVID-19 statistics in our county, can’ t access home testing results.
The county has also seen high transmission rates, meaning the virus is spreading extremely easily.
Gregg County Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne told us cases likely will continue to increase in August and September before dropping again — a pattern that happens every few months.
Russell Hopkins, public health emergency preparedness director for NET Health, said subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of the omicron variant are skilled at bypassing vaccine immunity and infecting people again.
The good news with these tricky subvariants is, for most of us, the symptoms are mild. You might even think it’s simply allergies or sinus woes. The other good news is hospitalizations in the Tyler area are not skyrocketing like during past surges.
So what’s the concern?
Heath officials continue to stress that while vaccines don’t guarantee you won’t get infected, they’re still the best defense to avoid serious illness.
And the biggest issue, even with these “mild” virus subvariants, remains people with weakened immune systems or any underlying issues such as cancer, diabetes or kidney or heart disease. They’re much more likely to become seriously ill.
Dr. Roy Chemaly, chief infection control officer at MD Anderson Cancer Center, sums it up: “To protect people with cancer from COVID-19, it’s important that their family members, loved ones, and caregivers get vaccinated and follow the same recommended COVID -19 precautions.”
Many of you reading this have a family member, friend or neighbor with an underlying health condition. Do your part to help keep them safe by getting a vaccine or booster and practicing good hygiene.
Hopkins told us East Texans need to apply the COVID-19 mitigation measures emphasized at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Other regions do mitigate much better than East Texas. it’s almost nonexistent here, which is fine in times of minimal spread, but we are in midst of high and moderate spread in all of our counties,” he said. “Really, we should be thinking about if we are going to eat out, pick it up and take it somewhere else because we just have so much community spread going on.”
We’re in this for the long haul, folks. As Browne told us, “there’s no end in sight” to the pandemic, and we can expect this pattern of surges for the foreseeable future.
We urge you to consider your most vulnerable family, friends and fellow community members and take steps to help them avoid infection.