A Harris County man has died from the COVID-19 omicron variant, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Monday.
It’s believed to be the first recorded death related to omicron in the U.S.
During a press conference, Hidalgo said the man lived in Harris County Precinct 2, was unvaccinated and in his 50s, with underlying health conditions.
Harris County's COVID-19 threat level was raised from "yellow" to "orange" on Monday, due to the explosive growth of the omicron variant across the region. The new advisory signifies an ongoing, uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County.
Hidalgo last raised the COVID threat level to “red” in August, when the delta variant caused a fourth wave of the pandemic across Texas. The threat level was lowered to “orange,” and then “yellow” in November, as ICU hospitalizations and new cases began trending downward.
“I understand the impulse to just tune out the latest news and just be sick and tired of all of this,” Hidalgo said. “But as we’ve been expecting, the omicron variant of COVID-19 has arrived in full force.”
Hidalgo added that it appears vaccine boosters prevent serious illness, but there have been breakthrough cases involving people who were fully vaccinated.
“Every day we learn something new about this virus,” Hidalgo said. “We don’t know how many of those breakthrough cases will end up turning into hospitalizations. We do know that the vaccine and the booster will keep that number very low and that is truly our solution.”
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is increasing throughout Texas Medical Center hospitals. According to data released Monday, new COVID hospitalizations jumped by 62% last week compared to the previous week, to more than 100 a day.
The Medical Center also reported more than 2,000 new positive cases a day last week compared to just over the previous week.
As of Sunday, 82% of Houston Methodist Hospital's new symptomatic COVID-19 cases were omicron. Hospital officials say positive omicron cases are currently doubling every two to three days, and added that omicron is now likely the predominant variant in the region — just three weeks after it was first identified.
Additional reporting by Matt Harab