Local doctor warns against holiday travel, crowded gatherings as COVID-19 cases rise

HOUSTON – As coronavirus continues to make top headlines in Texas and across the country, doctors say many people are becoming fatigued. But they warn the virus has not forgotten about you.

“The coronavirus is deadly. It will stab you in the back,” said Dr. Joseph Varon, the Chief of Medicine at United Memorial Medical Center. The virus has already claimed more than 250,000 lives in the US.

In Texas, over 1.4 million people have tested positive, and over 20,000 people have died.

“It’s been hell simple as that. We have been very busy,” Varon said, who has been working non-stop for 264 days at UMMC.

He says he seen people fight this virus while others have lost their battle.

“For me, the next six weeks are probably going to be the darkest times in the city of Houston. Unless we keep our social distance, wear our mask and wash our hands and avoid going to large crowded places,” he said.

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, Varon’s message is simple. He says to stay at home and avoid travel.

“I know family is important but I’d rather you have a zoom meeting for Thanksgiving than an ICU meeting for Christmas let’s be clear,” he said.

UMMC has already tested over 200,000 people and now they’re tasked with treating sick patients in El Paso, a city that’s struggling with a high record of cases.

“Most of them truly have one foot in the grave. They’re very, very sick. Patients are on stretchers in the hallways because they don’t have places to place them,” Varon said.

Even with vaccines close to being approved, Varon says it may not change much.

“I cannot convince my patients to get the flu shot. I am finding that it is going to be very difficult for a lot of people to accept that the vaccine will be here,” he said.

Varon says he’s prepared to open two additional wards at the facility to prepare for the weeks after Thanksgiving.