- Coronavirus cases are spiking all across Texas, including a record number of new cases in Houston.
- A Houston health expert is predicting that it will become the “worst affected” city in the country.
- “We could be in a world of hurt” if people don’t wear face masks or abide by social distancing guidelines, a Houston health official said.
- View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.
Houston could soon become the city worst hit by the coronavirus in the United States, one state health official is warning.
Harris County reported more than 1,400 new cases on Wednesday, the highest total yet since cases began spiking in mid-June. Statewide, more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus were reported on Wednesday, also a new high.
Health experts in the state are offering grim warnings that the worst may be yet to come.
“I believe if the numbers continue to rise at this pace, Houston is on track to become the worst affected city in the US,” said Peter Hotez, dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s School of Tropical Medicine.
Intensive care units in the city are nearing their maximum capacity, and hospitals are getting surge plans in place for an expected overflow of patients in the coming weeks.
"If the community doesn't start behaving differently, there's going to be a limit to what the hospitals will handle," Houston's public health authority David Persse said. "It's not today. That's three weeks from now."
Overall the US has seen more than 2.7 million cases and 128,000 deaths since January - more than any other country in the world.
Texas was one of the first states to start reopening after a brief lockdown during the pandemic. Shops, restaurants, and movie theaters in the state have been open since May 1. Now, Gov. Greg Abbott is shutting down bars and restricting restaurant services in an effort to slow the uptick.
At least 19 states are walking back reopening plans as they see similar surges in case numbers.
But Persse cautioned that if Houston residents don't change their behavior, the city's numbers will continue trending in the wrong direction.
"If they hear the message, and if they start wearing the mask and social distancing, we should be able to get through this," Persse said. "If they ignore the message, if they think it's political, they think it's fake news, if they come up with some excuse not to wear the mask and physically distance themselves, we could be in a world of hurt."