Surging COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations causing school districts to update health protocols

The highly contagious Delta variant is now overwhelming hospitals and causing schools to reconsider their safety protocols.

In light of surging COVID cases, two of Houston’s biggest school districts are updating their health protocols.

RELATED: Houston ISD Superintendent to bring forward mask mandate to school board for a vote

Fort Bend ISD announced Sunday that the district will now offer a virtual learning option.

In a tweet, FBISD said, "As data continues to show surging COVID infection rates, FBISD began work this weekend on limited-enrollment virtual school. In-person instruction begins Wednesday, Aug. 11. Virtual option launches later this month. Details to come."

Additionally, HISD’s board of trustees is expected to vote this week on a proposed mask mandate for all students, staff and visitors. Many on social media pushing for the change with the hashtag "Stand with HISD". 

RELATED: Houston ISD parents urge superintendent to offer virtual learning amid surge in COVID-19 cases

With the highly transmissible delta variant, Dr. Peter Hotez worries schools aren’t doing enough to keep kids safe. 

"We're seeing lots of pediatric ICU admissions and children's hospitals filling up and we never saw that before. While everybody's you know bickering about masks or no masks, I said that's small, that's small potatoes at this point. Masks are the least of it. We've got to get everybody vaccinated and that means all of the adolescents, teachers, and staff. That also probably means we may need to look at whether we can accelerate our timetable towards vaccinating school-aged kids, ages 5 to 11," Hotez said. 

Dr Hotez says not only do higher vaccination rates protect those immunized, but it also curbs community transmission rates.

MORE: The push to vaccinate Houston adolescents and school staff against COVID-19 intensifies

The latest concern from local officials is overwhelmed hospitals like Lyndon B. Johnson, where currently only two ICU beds are available according to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. 

"I’ve written a letter to the governor of Texas saying that his inaction is causing the suffering the hospital system in this community," Lee said. 

RELATED: Delta variant may cause steep increase in cases, deaths in fall, models show

Lee and several of her staff members toured LBJ hospital Sunday to highlight the dire, urgent need for more nurses so patients don’t have to spend 20 hours or more waiting, or potentially, be turned over to an outside tent meant for overflow.

"There are patients being dropped off at the communities' hospitals that have to be rejected or have to sit in a lobby until a nurse can be assigned. Not a nurse that's sleeping, not a nurse that’s inattentive, but there are not enough nurses," Lee said.