2 coronavirus variants found in Houston area

South African variant found in Texas for first time

HOUSTON – Two variants of COVID-19 have been found in the Houston area, officials announced Monday.

Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for Houston, said two men recently tested positive for the United Kingdom variant of the coronavirus. One of them has been hospitalized and the other has not, Persse said.

Persse also said that the city’s wastewater testing program has also identified the UK variant in several neighborhoods. He said researchers are still trying to determine what that data means and how to respond to it.

“This wastewater analysis is brand new, never been done before,” Persse said. “Remember, Houston was the first place on the planet to do this, and so, we’re learning as we go.”

Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson Minter, director of Fort Bend County Health and Human Services, said the South African variant of the virus was found in a man who traveled domestically through an airport. She said that person has since recovered.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is the first time the South African variant has been found in Texas.

Both Persse and Minter said they wouldn’t be surprised if more cases of the variants start being reported in the Houston area.

Both doctors emphasized that washing your hands, wearing a mask, keeping your distance from others and getting tested is the best way to slow the spread of the variants.

Vaccine update

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the Houston Health Department is concentrating on ensuring equity in the distribution of its doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

Stephen Williams, director of the Health Department, said people who are most likely to die if they were to contract the virus are being prioritized right now. He said no new appointments are expected to be available this week.

“Demand still far out paces supply,” Williams said.

Turner said the city is partnering with agencies in the area to distribute the vaccine, including Harris Health. An appointment-only clinic will be held at Harris Health’s Gulfgate clinic during the weekend, he said.

Latest numbers

Turner said the Health Department reported an additional 1,005 cases Monday, bringing the city’s total for the pandemic to 163,438. He said another nine deaths were reported Monday, bringing the city’s total to 1,838.

The mayor said the city’s 14-day positivity rate is at 15.1%, which is down three points from a month ago.

Watch a replay of Turner’s news conference below:

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner discusses a recent crime wave in the city and the status of the coronavirus pandemic.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner discusses a recent crime wave in the city and the status of the coronavirus pandemic.

About the Authors:

Aaron Barker has been a senior digital editor at KPRC 2 since 2016. As a meteorologist, he specializes in stories about the weather. He has covered Hurricane Harvey, the Astros first World Series win, the Santa Fe High School shooting, the ITC fire and Tropical Storm Imelda.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, social media news and local crime.