TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Infection rates have continued to rise in parts of East Texas. Health Officials said numbers increase in smaller counties due to people gathering together unvaccinated and unmasked.

In Henderson county alone, there were 490 registered cases on Sunday and 493 on Tuesday. COVID-19 numbers in Henderson County have spiked tremendously. On a 7 day average, the County is now surpassing Smith County.

UT Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Cummins said numbers in smaller counties increase when people gather unvaccinated and unmasked.

“Virtually, every county we service at UT Health East Texas has periodic surges,” said Cummins. “You can see the numbers surging in the hospitals. Our hospital in Athens (Henderson County) has been extremely busy with COVID patients.”

Hospitalization rates were low as we ended out the year 2021. Though in just the last few weeks there has been a significant increase.

“In mid-December, we were down to about 20 people across the division, less than 5 in Tyler and that was about December 17th or so. So, here we are 6 or 5 weeks later, and we are 10 times the number”, said Cummins.

NET Health said infection rates in Henderson County are concerning, but the spread of the virus here in our community doesn’t have centralized hotspots.

“It’s East Texas. It’s the entire whole community. All 35 counties of the NET Health service region have widespread transmission. Its community transmission is no longer close contact like a family member or co-worker that’s spreading the disease. It’s just ramped in the community”, said Director for Public Health Emergency Preparedness, Russell Hopkins.

Health officials were asked if they believe this pandemic will be ending soon and the possibility of herd immunity.

“Herd immunity is sort of a construct where enough people have had the illness or have been vaccinated. The problem is the longer it takes to get there, the harder it is to get it because now as the virus mutates, we are now starting to see people getting infected who have been vaccinated, boosted, and they continue to get COVID because we’ve taken so long to get to that level of immunity,” said Cummins.

To achieve herd immunity and see the end of this virus completely, medical experts say if you are sick, please stay home.