After Houston made significant progress in flattening the COVID-19 curve this September, Texas doctors are now seeing an uptick in the COVID-19 cases across the state.

According to the Texas Department of Human Services, there are now 5,917 new cases in Texas and 4,931 new hospitalizations, as of Thursday. In September, the number of hospitalizations in Texas dropped to a three-month low of 3,091.

“We’re seeing a slow, steady increase all over the city. This is probably due to a combination of factors,” Memorial Hermann’s Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Linda Yancey told Chron. “First of all, the cold weather is finally beginning to hit and force people to be inside more often. We know that this virus spreads very readily in indoor spaces. Restaurants are beginning to open up more, and they are fantastic places for spreading the virus.”

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In the last seven days, Texas averaged 4,292 new cases per day, 4,386 current hospitalizations and 69 new fatalities reported per day, according to Texas DSHS.

The other potential factor in COVID-19 spread is that Houston students are back in the classroom, after HISD resumed in-person learning at its campuses this week. Only a day after HISD started the person-to-person instruction, 16 schools were closed due to COVID-19 cases.

“A lot of these kids who had been doing distance learning are back in school and able to spread the virus,” Yancey noted.

Yancey said she was not at all surprised about the HISD closures.

“The way we’re going to have to do these lockdowns isn’t steadily opening back up or steadily closing down,” Yancey said.  “It’s going to be these little bumps, where we’re going to open things back up and then we’ll see a surge. Then close things down a bit until things calm down, and then open back up. It’s probably going to be tattered moving forward.”

In response to the possibility of a second COVID-19 wave, Yancey said that she’s confident about the way Houston doctors will handle another surge.

“We were all pretty sure that this would happen, now that cold weather is here,” Yancey said. “We’re so much better prepared to handle than we were in March, April, May and  June. We have the infrastructure down. I’m cautiously optimistic going into the winter that we should be able to handle it.”

The uptick in COVID-19 cases has been palpable for Yancey, as she’s witnessed it first-hand at Houston hospitals.

“We’re feeling it in every hospital that I go to. There is a noticeable increase in the number of cases,” Yancey said. “October has definitely seen more cases than September.”

For those who need a COVID-19 test, Yancey said it’s important to know the difference between the rapid and the standard PCR tests.

“The rapid test that you can get the answer back within a day are generally less sensitive, than the ones (PCR) tests that take a few days to come back. Those tests are very sensitive,” Yancey said. “The rapid tests run the risk of false negatives.”

Yancey stressed that it’s critical for Houstonians to not be complacent and to keep up COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing and wearing masks. But as a city, Houston will meet the challenge should a next COVID-19 wave occur.

“We just don’t know yet if another second high peak is coming” Yancey said. “It’s so important that people will wear masks, maintain social distancing, avoid large crowds. We got through July by wearing our masks, staying socially distanced. We know what to do. We have so much more information.  If we hit a second peak, we as a city can handle it.”

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