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‘Not the time to relax your guard:’ Memorial Hermann warns of COVID variants after spring break



PLANO, TX – With spring break in the rearview mirror and the COVID-19 vaccines soon becoming available to all Texans March 29, Memorial Hermann officials want the public to know COVID-19, and the precautionary measures taken, are not over. Spring break may cause another spike in the spread of the virus.

Linda Yancey, M.D., with Memorial Hermann cautioned the Houston community to continue social distancing and reduce travel during spring break. Now that spring break is over, Yancey is reminding all families to socially distance as usual and to self-isolate if they traveled in order to reduce the spread, regardless of vaccination status.

“That means wearing a mask around the house, keeping to yourself in your room, avoiding those unvaccinated family members as much as you can for 10 days,” Yancey said. “This is not the time to relax your guard. Not only have we had spring break, not only have we had the governor defy the CDC’s nationwide mask mandate, but we’ve also got variants moving into the area that are much more contagious.”

With students in Cy-Fair ISD returning from spring break, Leslie Francis, assistant superintendent for communication and community relations for CFISD, said the school district produced videos reminding students to stay safe during COVID-19.

“Students and staff are doing a great job of following CFISD’s LEAD Safely Plan while on campus, and we continue to remind students and staff to be personally responsible for their actions when not on campus,” she said in a statement.

The district also sent a message on March 5 to staff and students to minimize spread.

“Although we would be out of school for spring break, we were counting on everyone’s personal responsibility to carry us safely through the rest of the semester, including wearing a mask, following social distancing recommendations, washing your hands, and limiting social gatherings,” Francis said.

Yancey advised parents, and students, to be truthful with their school districts to avoid spreading the virus, especially school-mandated health surveys.

“Just answer those questions honestly,” Yancey said. “If the children have trouble, say yes. If someone in the household is sick, say yes. Answer those questions honestly and what that will allow the school to do is follow their protocol and they will go ahead and let you know what needs to happen. If that means homeschooling for awhile, well it is what it is.”

For those anxious about staying indoors too long, Yancey said the outdoors are always an option, provided social distancing guidelines are followed as well.

Although mask restrictions have been lifted statewide by Governor Greg Abbott, Yancey said residents should err on the side of caution as Easter and other spring holidays come over the horizon especially after the rise seen in winter 2020 due to the holiday season and large gatherings.

“Not only have we had spring break, not only have we had the governor defy the CDC’s nationwide mask mandate, but we’ve also got variants moving into the area that are much more contagious,” Yancey said. “We have seen a decrease in the amount of cases but not nearly as steep as we saw after the summer surge. We’re very concerned that cases are going to begin to plateau and we’re concerned we’re going to see a spring time surge.”

Yancey also suggested individuals form their “bubbles,” or small social circles, before upcoming holidays in order to reduce spread.

Misconceptions about vaccination immunity, including how fast the vaccine begins protecting recipients, are also rampant.

Yancey, and the CDC, said the mRNA vaccines take 7-10 days for vaccine protection to activate, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine takes up to 21 days.

“The pharmacy companies have waiting lists, the hospital systems have waiting lists, Harris County has a waiting list, State of Texas has a website that shows you where the vaccine providers are,” Yancey said. “The first vaccine you can get in your arm is the best vaccine for you. We want to get everybody protected.”

As the nation nears a total of 50 percent of the population being vaccinated, Yancey reminds Houston that they are almost able to resume normal life, but not quite yet.

“If we continue to vaccinate at the rate we are, we’ll have 50 percent of the population vaccinated by May, 70 percent by June and 90 percent by July.” Yancey said. “We are within a few months of potentially getting to herd immunity. We’re going to make it through, but we just need to wait a little bit longer. I have high hopes for the late summer and fall.”