A medical swab and container for a COVID test.

On Oct. 27, 708 new cases were reported in a single day in the Greater Houston area, compared to 608 daily a week before and 373 daily the month before, as reported by the Texas Medical Center, says Michael W. Jackson, MD, family medicine physician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group The Woodlands Primary Care.

“One of the key metrics for monitoring a pandemic is the R(t), which is the effective reproduction rate of a virus,” says Dr. Jackson.

The R(t) value indicates the average number of people who become infected by one infected person. A value below 1.0 indicates that the virus is slowing, but a value above 1.0 indicates it is spreading. The R(t) for the Greater Houston area has increased to 1.19 from 1.06 last week.

“To help contain the spread, people need to wear masks in public, use hand sanitizer and maintain a social distance of 6 feet or more,” Dr. Jackson says. “If someone has symptoms or thinks they may have been exposed to the virus, they should call their primary care doctor to get further guidance.”

What accounts for the surge? Experts blame “caution fatigue,” as people ease precautions after more than 8 months of sheltering in place.

Important things to keep in mind:

  • Bubbles can be punctured. If you and other families choose to operate as a bubble, you’re trusting others to be as cautious as you are.
  • Having recovered from COVID-19 and been tested negative is not a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. Research is divided on how long immunity lasts.
  • You have to wear masks properly and consistently, while also maintaining your distance of 6 feet or more, and using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. “You must do all three,” says Dr. Jackson.
  • If you attend social gatherings, wear masks even indoors when you aren’t eating and when you cannot be 6 feet apart from people beyond your immediate household.
  • Symptom-free does not mean contagion-free. You may spread the virus before realizing you have COVID-19.
  • The fewer people you and your family are exposed to, the better. Ask babysitters, nannies and housecleaners to wear masks within your home or in your presence. And do likewise.
  • If your children are too young to follow social distancing rules, reconsider allowing them to mingle.

To learn more about COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus Resource Center.

This information is accurate as of October 30, 2020.

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