HOUSTON — As Thanksgiving week begins, one person is dying of COVID-19 every minute in the United States. It's a sobering statistic fueled by increased hospitalizations, many of them in Texas.
"Things are getting not only worse, they're getting scary in the western part of the state," said infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez.
In El Paso, the National Guard has been deployed to the morgue to help with a rising body count. Inmates are helping, too. Numbers are also dangerously high in Lubbock.
In the Houston region, 1,392 people hospitalized with COVID-19. That's the highest since August 25th.
"This is getting really worrisome because we're seeing surges on ICU's, that's always the sign of really bad trouble," said Hotez.
Gov. Greg Abbott says no new lockdowns are coming, but under the rules, if a region sees 15% of its hospitalizations are COVID patients for seven straight days, things like bars must close and restaurant capacity would drop back down to 50%.
Right now the Houston region sits at 11.8%.
"The numbers look terrible in Texas," said Hotez.
Fifty million people are estimated to travel for Thanksgiving and that could worsen an already worsening pandemic. Hotez and the CDC are urging folks to stay home this year to keep those we love alive.
"The idea is to not travel this Thanksgiving, so you can have dozens of Thanksgivings to come together," said Hotez.
But folks aren't listening. The TSA screened more than 2 million travelers this weekend, the most since March. That means COVID-19 cases will undoubtedly climb even faster.
"We're clearly already heading to 200,000 new cases a day which means three or four times that," said Hotez.
If trends continue, experts say the deaths will follow. And with vaccines closer by the day, they're pleading with people to not be reckless and hold on a little longer.
"Help is on the way, so it's just a matter of keeping everybody alive for the next three months," said Hotez.