UT Southwestern Medical Center Warns COVID-19 Hospitalizations Are Spiking Again in DFW

Experts are still asking people to get vaccinated in Texas.
Experts are still asking people to get vaccinated in Texas. U.S. Secretary of Defense, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
With more than 5,700 coronavirus-related deaths in Dallas County to date, we’re just a couple months shy of the two-year anniversary of COVID-19 in Texas, and earlier this month, the state reported its first case of the new omicron variant.

This week, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center warned that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Dallas County swelled by 6% during the first two weeks of December, and experts expect new infections to hit 650 a day by Jan. 3.

In nearby Tarrant County, hospitalizations rose 13% during that same period.

UT Southwestern Medical Center's coronavirus forecast added that unvaccinated individuals remain “particularly susceptible to the highly contagious delta variant,” which drove a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Dallas-Fort Worth and beyond earlier this year.

"Infections are flat in most [age] groups but increasing week-over-week in younger age groups with lower vaccination rates," the forecast explains.

"As far as government mandates are concerned, there will be none in Texas." - Gov. Greg Abbott

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So far, the omicron variant, which can more easily evade the protections provided by vaccines, has already popped up in Collin, Dallas and Tarrant counties, the report said. In general, unvaccinated individuals are 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19, the update added.

UT Southwestern recommended returning to mask wearing, which became more common over the summer but “may be declining once again.”

The COVID-19 threat level in Dallas County is still at “orange,” meaning health officials are urging “extreme caution,” The Dallas Morning News reported this week.

But Philip Huang, the county’s health director, said the rapid spread of the omicron variant is “very scary,” adding: “Everything we’ve seen is that this [variant] is extremely transmissible.”

With the holidays upon us, the number of infections could yet spike again. Earlier this week, public health experts in North Texas said that holiday travel, crowded family gatherings and subpar vaccination levels could create a “perfect storm” for another sharp spike in COVID-19 cases in the region.

Since the pandemic first hit Texas in early 2020, the state has recorded more than 4.4 million coronavirus cases and upward of 75,000 deaths from the virus.

Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott has remained steadfast in his opposition to implementing a statewide mask mandate.

“As far as government mandates are concerned, there will be none in Texas,” Abbott said this week, as reported by The Dallas Morning News. “We are moving forward with life as we know it.”

As COVID-19 cases spread, some restaurants and bars have voluntarily started closing. In some parts of the country, schools have started shutting down and returning to remote learning once more.

In Dallas, nearly 60% of residents five or older have been fully vaccinated, according to public health data. 
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Patrick Strickland is the news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's a former senior reporter at Al Jazeera English and has reported for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.