Texas's most populous county on Wednesday issued a public safety alert warning residents against celebrating New Years with anyone other than those in their immediate household.
KHOU-11, a local CBS-affiliate, reports the warning from Harris County, which contains Houston, told residents to “protect yourself, family and healthcare workers.”
Dr. Ali Mokdad, a researcher who helped create the COVID-19 model used by the White House, told the television station that a rise in cases and mobility has been observed but mask-wearing has remained stagnant.
"The concern for New Years Eve is totally different," Mokdad told the station. "It's a different kind of celebration. People celebrate with friends, family and sometimes people they don't know. It could be a super spreader event on top of what you're seeing in Texas."
Over 60 percent of ICU beds in Texas are currently occupied by COVId-19 patients KHOU reports, with cases not expected to peak until some time in January.
According to Mokdad’s model, if trends continue the way they’re going Texas could experience as many as 35,000 deaths by the beginning of February.
“Many hospitals are facing a shortage of ICU beds. If you put such a pressure on hospitals we may have to start referring patients to other hospitals far from where they live,” said Mokdad.
KHOU notes that the vaccine rollout has been much slower than expected. Trump officials on Wednesday defended the pace of vaccine distribution, claiming up to 20 million doses will be made available for all 64 U.S. territories.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than 2 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered so far.
"Mask 95 percent wearing will do much better between now and April 1 especially when compared to the rapid rollout of the vaccines simply because we don't have enough vaccines," Mokdad added and said the pandemic will likely get much worse beginning in January.