More than 1,100 new COVID-19 cases were reported among staff and students by Houston-area schools in the southern central U.S. state of Texas in the past 24 hours, local media reported on Tuesday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, as many as 6,755 cases were reported in 27 Houston-area school districts, adding 1,626 new cases since Monday afternoon, reported KTRK-TV, an ABC News affiliate based in the most populous city in Texas.
Houston Independent School District reported 194 students and 82 staff infected with COVID-19 in just two days into the school year, said the report.
Rice University, a private research university in Houston, recently decided to revert to remote learning for the first two weeks of the fall semester since one of its COVID-19 testing providers produced multiple false positive test results last week.
Rice implemented a pre-semester testing on Aug. 13 that included 81 COVID-19 positives out of around 4,500 people tested over nine days, equaling a 2-percent positivity rate, much higher than the 0.24-percent positivity rate Rice accrued over the last school year, reported the Houston Chronicle newspaper.
In southern Texas, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge in Austin-Travis County, there are 726 COVID-19 hospitalizations for 11 counties including and surrounding Austin, the state's capital city, just one shy of a pandemic high of 727 on Jan. 18 this year.
The Austin Independent School District, which requires mask-wearing for all students, staff and visitors, announced on Tuesday that it will offer a one-time incentive of 250 U.S. dollars to eligible employees who are fully vaccinated by Oct. 15.
The district is also considering mandating vaccines for all teachers and staff, said the Houston Chronicle.
In Kaufman County, located in the northeastern area of the state, all Kemp Independent School District campuses will be closed from Wednesday through Friday due to rapidly spreading COVID-19 cases, the district said on Tuesday, adding the three-day closure will allow schools to thoroughly disinfect all district facilities, including transportation.
Kemp Superintendent James Young told local media that as of Monday, 100 students and 30 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, equaling about a 7-8 percent positivity rate within the district.
However, despite health officials' suggestions, Leander Independent School District, which consists of more than 40,000 students in central Texas, chose not to close schools in the area, according to a Texas Tribune report on Tuesday.
About 43 percent of cases in the district occurred in elementary schools and the "vast majority" of cases are students, said the report, citing Dr. Amanda Norwood, medical director of the Williamson County and Cities Health District.
"This outbreak is probably infecting more kids than what we've seen in the past epidemic surges," former Food and Drug Administration director Scott Gottlieb spoke on CNBC, while predicting the Delta-driven COVID-19 surge in the southern United States has likely peaked.
According to data issued Tuesday by the Texas Department of State Health Services, more than 2.9 million cases have been reported in Texas and more than 54,000 people in the state have died since the pandemic broke out last year.
The Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council on Monday reported more than 4,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations for the first time since the outbreak in the 25-county region the agency covers. More than 700 patients, 107 in critical condition, were stuck in emergency departments waiting for an available bed.