According to the Houston Health Department, viral load testing at local wastewater treatment plants indicates the amount of Coronavirus is up 709% this week from the baseline testing rate established in July 2020. Last week, the number was at 636%.
The positivity rate is now up to 28.3%, up slightly from 25.7% the previous week.
"If you've been infected with Omicron, which is probably likely, recognize that Omicron infection is not going to protect you against the BA.5 reinfection," said Dr. Peter Hotez with Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. Hotez says the latest wave of infections are likely caused by the new Omicron sub-variant, B-A.5. The CDC now considers it the dominant strain in the U.S.
"If you're more than four or five months out from your last immunization it's time to get boosted," said Dr Hotez. "Data from the end of April and beginning of May, show that there's a difference in hospitalization rates to those have gotten one boost versus two boosts."
Currently, anyone 50 years and older is eligible to get a 2nd booster shot. Those 12 and older, who have underlying health conditions can also qualify.
However, as the COVID-19 virus continues to mutate and breakthrough cases become more common, Dr. Hotez says federal health officials are reassessing a more coherent, vaccine strategy.
"The FDA Advisory Committee recommended not unanimously, but moving forward on a booster comprised of either BA.4 or BA.5 sub variance; my concern is that by the time that's ready in the fall before BA.5 will be behind us and on to a new variant," he said. "So I've suggested to the White House and Health and Human Services agencies to shape a more coherent strategy on how to move forward, and whether the mRNA technologies are holding up."
"We should look to other technologies or how we can predict better, new variants and how we move towards a universal Coronavirus vaccine," Dr. Hotez added.
Dr. Hotez says high-risk patients should create a proactive plan with their doctors.
"It's good to have a plan and have that discussion with your primary care provider, what do I do if I get sick. So, for instance, when I tested positive for COVID-19, I had a relationship with my primary care provider and was able to go on Paxlovid within a couple hours of after my diagnosis. And that's optimal because the earlier you take it, the better you'll do."
Paxlovid is an anti-viral drug prescribed by doctors to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 and help keep high-risk patients out of the hospital.
The drug was granted emergency authorization for use in December and is now awaiting FDA approval.
"It only works early on in the course of the illness, so if you wait too many days before your onset of symptoms it'll be less effective because it only gets the virus replication phase," Hotez said.