The number of COVID-19 cases reported in Galveston County appears to have peaked, said Dr. Philip Keiser, the local health authority.
The Galveston County Health District on Wednesday announced 259 new cases of COVID-19. It’s the lowest number of cases reported in a single day since Dec. 21.
Over the past week, the number of active COVID-19 cases reported in the county has decreased by 10 percent, or by more than 1,400 cases. It’s the first time since early December there has been a net decrease in cases reported in the county.
Those figures, and others, are part of a growing trend seen in COVID-related matters in the county: Things are getting better.
“Everything’s going down,” Keiser said. “When we look at our total caseload, our cases in schools, cases in students, cases in school staff or the number of people seeking testing — basically, it looks like this is a real drop.”
In response to the drop in demand for testing, the health district plans to shut down its drive-through site in Texas City next week, Keiser said. He didn’t plan to lift a recommendation against holding jury trials until at least the end of next week, however, Keiser said.
If the trend locally follows the models seen in places where omicron arrived sooner, cases in Galveston County would bottom out near the start of Galveston’s annual Mardi Gras celebrations, Keiser said. The pre-Lenten festival begins Feb. 18 this year.
Local hospitalizations connected to COVID also peaked about two weeks ago, according to the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council. On Jan. 13, 130 people diagnosed with COVID were in county hospitals, according to the council.
On Tuesday, 94 people were hospitalized while diagnosed with COVID-19.
Although hospitalizations are going down, the number of people in hospitals and diagnosed with COVID-19 is near historic highs and intensive care units are near capacity, Keiser said.
Keiser cautioned that while infection rates are dropping, COVID-19 still is more present in the community than almost any other time of the pandemic. Active cases and new daily cases still are at higher points than at any other time of the pandemic.
But if the trend continues, people taking added precautions because of the omicron variant should be able to start loosening up, he said.
“What we expect to see over the next few weeks as our numbers go down is people acting more normally,” Keiser said “That’s just human behavior, and I think it’s going to be OK.”
At the same time, the toll the latest peak in cases has taken on the county is becoming clearer. The health district has announced 22 COVID-19 related deaths in January.
Three new deaths announced on Wednesday made January the ninth-deadliest month in the pandemic and the highest-fatality month since 74 people died in September during the surge caused by the delta variant.
It’s impossible to predict exactly when another surge of cases will occur, Keiser said. But after previous surges, cases would ebb for a time before rising again because of a new variant.
He hoped a new variant wouldn’t be a massive transformation from the omicron variant. A similar variant would have a harder time infecting the large number of people who were infected during the latest surge, he said.
“There’s a part of me that’s optimistic and thinks that with omicron, this might be the game-changer,” Keiser said. “But the unexpected roll of the dice is what happens if there’s a new variant and it’s very different from omicron.”
“There’s always this risk that we’re going to get something that’s wildly different,” he said.