DALLAS — COVID-19 patients still make up a small percentage of hospitalizations in North Texas, but those numbers could return to summer 2020 levels if vaccination rates continue to lag and unvaccinated people don't make efforts to prevent the spread, according to a new data modeling report from UT Southwestern in Dallas.
The Southwestern report emphasized the need for younger age groups to get vaccinated; the largest share of COVID-19 hospital patients in North Texas are under 65, the report said.
And for those not vaccinated, following prevention protocols, such as wearing a mask indoors and trying to stay physically distant from others, "will be necessary to protect the health" of unvaccinated people, the report said.
The data modeling was a result of the climbing COVID-19 hospitalization rates in North Texas - a 40% jump in Dallas County over the last two weeks and a 65% increase in Tarrant County - and the prevalence of the Delta variant.
The Southwestern report "confirmed a substantial increase" in cases of the Delta variant, which it deemed more contagious and potentially more severe.
The Delta variant is now estimated to be the dominant strain of COVID-19 in North Texas, according to Southwestern.
While COVID-19 admissions still make up less than 5% of total hospitalizations in North Texas, the number of COVID-19 patients has increased by 65% over the last month, and 27% in the last week.
The latest hospital data showed 647 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The Southwestern report projected Dallas County reaching 150-200 COVID-19 hospitalizations by Aug. 2 and Tarrant County reaching 200-260 hospitalizations.
Last summer, COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Texas surpassed 1,500. Southwestern's data projects a return to similar levels by October if the current pace of vaccinations stays the same and social distancing measures aren't taken.
As of Thursday, Dallas County had 50.69% of eligible people fully vaccinated, and Tarrant County had 49.04% fully vaccinated. Denton County was at 55.12% and Collin County at 60.72%.