Medical experts now say most transmission takes place in one to two days before symptoms start through the first three days of illness.


El Campo Memorial Hospital is already seeing a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases several days before the fallout from holiday gatherings is expected.

“Recently at least a third of all patients seen in the ER have tested positive for COVID,” ECMH spokesperson Donna Mikeska said Monday.

The variant of the illness has not been released, but the state health department is reporting the Omicron variant accounts for 90 percent of all cases.

Between six and eight cases per day are being reported in Wharton County, according to the state, 77 cases since Dec. 13. Since the start of the pandemic, a total of 193 Wharton County residents have died as a result of the virus.

Most patients seen in the hospital or its clinic over the last two weeks are reporting mild symptoms and may be able to return to workplaces faster thanks to a reduction in CDC quarantine guidelines from 10 to five days announced Monday.

Medical experts now say most transmission takes place in one to two days before symptoms start through the first three days of illness.

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

Like all other medical establishments, ECMH is waiting to see if traditional Christmas gatherings are going cause not just a spike, but a feared tidal wave of new cases.

“We are always concerned about holiday or other gatherings as Omicron is much more contagious,” Mikeska said, adding, “We should know how these past gatherings affect us in the next couple of days or weeks.”

At the same time, ECMH and Mid Coast Health System clinics are treating high numbers of COVID cases, it is also seeing an increase in patients testing positive for influenza.

“We have an average of five to seven patients hospitalized (for COVID) at this time,” Mikeska said, adding, “We are seeing many more patients testing positive for flu than last year.”

Doctors here are using the recommended Monoclonal infusions to treat severe cases.

“Our physicians are prescribing many more Monoclonal infusions to patients with COVID. We are giving an average of 10 infusions per day,” Mikeska said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services, however, is reporting shortages of the drug in metro infusion centers.

The FDA has authorized two new oral anti-virus drugs, but they are expected to be hard to get in the coming weeks.

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