BEAUMONT, Texas — With Christmas only days away, Southeast Texas health officials are bracing for what they believe will be a record breaking number of COVID-19 cases.
The omicron variant has become the dominant strain in America, accounting for more than 92 percent of new cases in Texas. Harris County reported its first omicron-related death on Monday.
So far, Southeast Texas has not seen the same trends as larger metropolitan areas. However, while hospitalizations in Beaumont remain low, there has been a slight rise in cases recently.
On Monday, Dec. 20, Beaumont reported 74 new COVID-19 cases. In the U.S., COVID-19 cases are up by 96 percent.
With people travelling for Christmas, Southeast Texas doctors are expecting for this holiday season to see a spike in cases.
“We were hoping that maybe it would be a quiet holiday season,” Msonthi Levine, Beaumont physician, said. “Well, I mean we certainly are seeing an uptick in the number of cases just here alone in my practice.”
The recent spike in cases has people across the country scrabbling to find at-home COVID-19 testing kits. While kits have been hard to find in some areas, Southeast Texas has been lucky.
“I haven't seen an uptick in the purchasing of the at-home testing kits at this point,” Greg Hamby, pharmacist and owner of King’s Pharmacy, said.
Hamby wants Southeast Texans to know that if they need a test, his pharmacy located at 3610 N Major Dr. in Beaumont has plenty.
“In terms of testing, we have quite a surplus on hand for the testing and not knowing what the future might hold as far as demand, we haven't purchased anymore,” Hamby said.
In Beaumont, at-home testing kits can also be purchased at the CVS and Walgreens on College Street.
“We've had two years to get ready for this particular day, and from my experience, it seems testing is more widely available,” Levine said.
Also available locally are treatments such as monoclonal antibody therapy at the Beaumont Infusion Center located at 5550 Eastex Freeway. Officials with Baptist hospital said that they are treating about 40 people a day.
Related: Southeast Texas health officials urging use of regional infusion center to slow rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations
“The good news about this is that all those who are testing positive are being able to be managed as an outpatient," Todd Senters, president of Baptist hospital said. "Our inpatient numbers have not started to increase.”
Health officials said they are committed to responding to the omicron variant and encourage Southeast Texans to take necessary precautions this holiday season.
“Obviously the most ideal situation is to try not to visit, stay at home, but I just don't see that happening,” Levine said. “And so, we're just trying to encourage patients, get your vaccines, mask up, if you're sick stay at home quarantine.
Southeast Texas health officials encourage everyone to get tested before hugging your loved ones.