Models suggest omicron will accelerate in Texas during the first few months of the new year. Economists hope it won’t stop the economic recovery.
HOUSTON – As we count down the final hours of 2021, Dr. Peter Hotez said 2022 will begin with increasing levels of COVID-19 transmission, long lines of tests and masks returning.
“There’s a piece of déjà vu to that isn’t it,” Hotez said. “The omicron variant is still spreading and accelerating in Houston and Texas.”
National IHME models predict that Texas could have more than 260,000 cases per day by mid-January.
“It’s pretty impressive how transmissible it is and it’s climbing precipitously,” Hotez said.
This latest wave of omicrons is coming at a time when the economy continues to rebound. On Thursday, new numbers show jobless claims claims are at a 52-year low.
The Greater Houston Partnership expects Houston to create more than 75,000 new jobs next year. But inflation, supply chain problems and a shortage of workers continue to pose a challenge.
Health experts hope omicron doesn’t make things worse.
“This will be the challenge to get through the next few weeks,” said Hotez.
Hotez expects a tough run in early 2022 with hospitalizations and deaths higher than they should be at this point in the pandemic.
“We will be stressed once again, sadly,” said Hotez. “It will not be an easy set of weeks. January and February will still be difficult months.”
Experts say too many Texas remain unvaccinated and this is still our Achilles heel.
“If you are not vaccinated, you are playing with fire,” Hotez said.
Hotez isn’t convinced a new year will mean less hesitation for the vaccine. But if it does, 2022 could change rapidly.
“The hope is that once this great wave passes, provided we vaccinate the world, we will be in a much better position,” Hotez said.
National IHME models show Texas peaked by January 19, but it may not be until April when we see case counts return to where they were last November.