Houston could become worst-affected city in U.S. if COVID-19 trajectory continues

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reemphasized the need for Texans to wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines, warning that the state risks having stricter measures reinstated otherwise.

MORE: Abbott says rate of COVID-19 spread ‘unacceptable’ in Texas, doesn’t impose new rules or closures

Health officials say if the upward trajectory of COVID-19 cases continues, Houston could become the worst affected city in the U.S.

"If we do not start wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, it could result in that business actually having to close back down," Abbott said. "Our goal is to keep businesses open, to keep society engaged and one of the most effective tools that we can do that is by people wearing masks."

RELATED: New mask mandate in effect as Houston hospitalization rates rise

The Governor’s concerns over spiking cases and hospitalizations across the state are echoed by local health officials like Dr. Marc Boom, the President and CEO of Houston Methodist.

“At Houston Methodist on Memorial Day, we had 104 people. This morning we have 329 people who are hospitalized, so well more than tripling in a four-week period, and most of that growth has occurred in the past two weeks," Dr. Boom said.

The steep rise in Houston’s infection rate caught the eye of leading vaccine researcher Dr. Peter Hotez at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Early last week we started to see a change in that rise, it went like this to almost vertical," Dr. Hotez said. 

THE LATEST: Coronavirus COVID-19 cases, deaths, recoveries in greater Houston area

In a tweet, Dr. Hotez said if the trajectory persists, Houston would become the worst affected city in the U.S., maybe rivaling the situation in Brazil. He also worries that masks alone, simply won’t be enough and suggested that Houston would need to proceed to red alert, which means staying home. 

"The bottom line is that Texas as a whole is one of the worst affected states in the U.S. along with Florida and Arizona," Dr. Hotez said. 

Officials said roughly 32,000 COVID-19 tests are conducted on average every day statewide.

Dr. Hotez said the Texas Medical Center has a 2,600 bed-capacity in the ICU.

Currently, Hotez said Houston filled up about half of that.