DALLAS — Omicron is spreading fast in North Texas, and the latest data modeling from University of Texas Southwestern health officials shows just how contagious the COVID-19 variant has become.
By the end of January, daily COVID-19 cases could reach 10,000 in Dallas County and 8,000 in Tarrant County, according to the UT Southwestern data report released Tuesday.
COVID-19 hospitalizations could double in North Texas by the end of the month, the report said, as the fast-spreading Omicron has become the dominant variant of the virus.
In fact, Omicron makes up nearly 100% of positive COVID-19 tests that are sequenced at UT Southwestern. A COVID-19 sample must be genetically sequenced to determine its specific variant.
"Levels of local transmission are the highest seen since the beginning of the pandemic and will likely increase further on the heels of recent holiday gatherings followed by many returning to in-person work and school," the UT Southwestern report said.
UT Southwestern officials said the "vast majority" of people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated.
On Monday, the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council reported 3,359 people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the North Texas region, an increase of 341 patients from Sunday.
COVID-19 hospitalizations account for 24.6% of available beds in North Texas. Among the hospitalizations, 124 patients are children, an increase of three patients from Sunday, according to the hospital council.
The UT Southwestern data released Tuesday showed hospitalizations increasing rapidly across all groups. In Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties, the sharpest increases have been among people 65 and older. In Dallas County the sharpest increase has been among people ages 18-49.
The UT Southwestern model projected several ways to flatten the Omicron spike, the two most effective being a return to masking and social distancing levels from summer and fall 2020.
UT Southwestern officials urged people to get vaccinated, citing a Texas Department of Health Services report that found unvaccinated Texans are 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19.