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The COVID-19 winter surge is hitting North Texas right before the holidays

Virus Outbreak Winter
Nathan Howard
/
AP
Nursing home administrator Crystal Scott, right, watches as Tina Sandri, CEO of Forest Hills of DC senior living facility, demonstrates COVID-19 testing procedures on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

COVID-19 cases have been steadily increasing since Thanksgiving, with more than 18,000 new cases this past week. On top of that, doctors are dealing with an influx of RSV and flu patients.

COVID-19 cases are rising across Texas two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday, echoing last year’s surge of the omicron variant.

There are more than 18,000 positive cases across the state this week, up from a little over 7,000 the week of Thanksgiving.

“Thanksgiving this year was kind of like PTSD,” said epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina, author of Your Local Epidemiologist. “I think all of us epidemiologists were holding our breath, just to make sure this was going to be a regular Thanksgiving.”

While hospitalizations and deaths are still low thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations and the updated bivalent booster that targets omicron, cases have been steadily climbing since November.

The change this year, Jetelina said, is the combination of flu, RSV, and now COVID. The Texas Department of State Health Services reports the intensity of influenza-like illness has remained “very high” in the past few weeks, with an increase in the number of influenza outbreaks and more than 28,000 positive flu tests in the week ending in Dec. 3.

“RSV and flu are just back with vengeance,” she said. “We're starting to get a sneak peek of what this new normal is.”

Virus Outbreak Winter
Nathan Howard
/
AP
Tina Sandri, CEO of Forest Hills of DC senior living facility, center, greets residents Cherie Neville, left, and Catherine Doleman on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Washington. As nursing home leaders redouble efforts to get staff and residents boosted with the new vaccine version, now recommended for those 6 months and older, they face complacency, misinformation and COVID-19 fatigue. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

Other states, like New York, have issued a health advisory to encourage people to mask indoors while cases are high. Jetelina said it’s important to think about protecting the most vulnerable members of the community, like the elderly and folks who are immunocompromised.

“I’m going to have 90-year-old people at my house for Christmas this year,” she said. “That, to me, means I am wearing an N-95 mask in public everywhere I go the week before Christmas. It helps ensure I don’t miss the event because I’m sick, but it also helps break that transmission chain so I don’t bring it to my grandparents.”

She says it’s not too late to get vaccinated to protect against COVID and the flu.

“I’m tired, everyone’s tired, [but] the virus isn’t tired of us,” she said.

Health officials in Dallas are also monitoring a new COVID-19 variant, XBB. Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Philip Huang said it’s the combination of two previous strains of omicron, and spreads faster than previous variants.

“If there is a new variant that starts taking over that perhaps might be more severe and more resistant to the protections for the vaccine, that would certainly be concerning,” he said.

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

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.
Pablo Arauz Peña is the breaking news reporter for KERA News.