'We've got to save lives': Fort Bend Co. COVID-19 threat level raised to 'significant' as cases rise

The COVID-19 threat level in Fort Bend County has now been raised from yellow to orange, meaning there's a "moderate to significant" risk to the community.

County Judge KP George made the announcement during a press conference on Tuesday, citing the highly contagious Delta variant and the need for more county residents to be vaccinated.

With the new risk level come social distancing protocols to minimize interactions with others.

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The judge is also calling on all county employees to wear masks and get vaccinated. Employees and visitors will also need to undergo a health screening at the entrances of all county buildings.

Just four months ago, the county had lowered its risk level to yellow thanks to the "public’s diligence in mask-wearing and physical distancing, and our county’s leadership in vaccinating residents."

Currently, more than 60% of the county's population is vaccinated, making it one of the highest counties in the state.

But according to Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson Minter, the health and human services director of Fort Bend County, more than 90% of the county's hospital COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

Also, 16% of COVID-19 cases are of kids ages 11 and younger, who are not eligible to be vaccinated.

Our pediatric hospitals have been seeing a substantial increase in hospitalizations due to respiratory illnesses over the past four weeks," Dr. Minter said. "Our hospitals in general and our ERs are growing full again and healthcare staff are once again being stretched to their limits."

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Dr. Peter Hotez was also at the press conference and emphasized his concern for the younger generations.

"I'm particularly concerned about the unvaccinated adolescence," Dr. Hotez said. "Because … this is happening before school even begins for in-person classrooms, and that if our past experience serves us well, it means it's going to act as an accelerant. Things are about to get even worse as schools start to open."

Hotez is urging eligible staff and students to get vaccinated and wear masks while at school.

He also added that the community needs to do its part for the kids who can't get a vaccine, like getting vaccinated and wearing masks or the kids will suffer like in cities in Louisiana.

"What we've got to do is be able to push back on the fake stuff. We've got to stop this nonsense of health freedom and medical freedom. We've got to save lives because right now, as we speak, in New Orleans and other cities in Louisiana we are seeing pediatric intensive care unit admissions mount up. And if we're serious about protecting our kids, it means getting everybody vaccinated."