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Health & Wellness

Delta Variant, Slowing Vaccination Rates Behind North Texas COVID Spike

Hand of nurse practitioner holding COVID-19 vaccine card.
Craig Ruttle
/
Associated Press
Over the past month, Tarrant County has seen nearly four times the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Dallas County hospitalizations have doubled in July, according to County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Both Dallas and Tarrant Counties have seen increases in coronavirus cases over the past few weeks. Public Health officials attribute the growth to the spread of the more transmissible delta variant and the number of North Texans who are still unvaccinated.

North Texas is in the midst of a coronavirus resurgence.

Tarrant County posted its highest case counts since March this past weekend.

The numbers had hovered between 400 and 600 new cases per week for the past few months. That number increased to more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases per week in mid-July. According to health officials, people who have contracted COVID-19 in the county since March have largely been unvaccinated.

Tarrant County is also seeing nearly four times the number of hospitalizations related to coronavirus compared to the month before. County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja said there are currently more than 320 people hospitalized due to the virus, compared to close to 90 a month ago.

More and more North Texans are contracting the more transmissible delta variant of coronavirus.

"The more time we give the virus to mutate in people, the more variants are going to come out,” Taneja said. “We're going to run out of alphabets to name those variants.”

The delta variant is now the most prevalent strain both in Texas and the country as a whole, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC says all the coronavirus vaccines available in the U.S decrease the rate of hospitalization, death and transmission associated with COVID-19.

“People who get vaccinated, we can pretty much not worry about them right now,” said Taneja. “What we’re worried about and what we’re seeing is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks said most people who have been hospitalized and died due to coronavirus in the county have been unvaccinated.

“The key is, take the shot,” Brooks said. “It can’t be plainer than that. You got to take the damn shot.”

With increased coronavirus cases, public health officials recommend wearing a mask and avoiding unnecessary indoor gatherings, in addition to getting vaccinated.

“There’s no harm in giving yourself an additional layer of protection,” Taneja said.

Dallas County Director of Health and Human Services Phil Huang said he’s seeing many of the same issues as Tarrant County: Case numbers and hospitalizations going up due to variants and slowing vaccination rates.

“Some of our latest estimates is it’s still close to 60% that aren’t fully vaccinated in Dallas County,”Huang said. “We’re all looking at this disturbing trend upward, and [along with the hospital systems], we’re trying to address the different ways of how we get people to get vaccinated.”

Dallas County Health and Human Services reported that about 82% of COVID-19 cases diagnosed during the week of July 10 were people who were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

Huang said he and other health officials are trying to stress the importance of the health outcomes of community vaccinations, rather than politics.

“Getting vaccinated should not be a political thing,” Huang said. “This is totally public health. These vaccines work. There’s hundreds of millions of doses that have been administered. They're safe. They're extremely effective.”

Huang said his concern as a new school year approaches is the potential for spread from children under 12, who could potentially be vaccinated by this winter or early 2022, to unvaccinated parents, which would put a strain on the hospital systems.

Free COVID-19 vaccines are available across the state through private providers, pharmacies and vaccine hubs.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at erivera@kera.org. You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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