DALLAS — Dallas County officials voted Tuesday night to upgrade the county's COVID-19 risk level to "Red," another indication of the surge of the Delta variant across North Texas.
Level Red in Dallas County means there is a high risk for community transmission of COVID-19.
All of North Texas is currently considered a "high transmission" area, according to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors are growing more concerned about the spread of the virus as hospitalizations in particular rise.
North Texas currently has about 1,800 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Compare that with a month ago, when the entire state had about 1,600 patients in local hospitals suffering from the disease. As of Aug. 3, that figured had grown to 7,305 people in Texas hospitals with COVID-19.
Dallas County's COVID-19 risk levels don't trigger restrictions, but they do provide updated guidance for residents.
Under Level Red, fully vaccinated people "have more options to return to normal but need to be careful," the county guidance said.
Officials say vaccinated people should now wear a mask in all indoor public settings and in outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible.
If a vaccinated person has a known exposure to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they should get tested 3 to 5 days after the exposure, and wear a mask indoors in public until they receive a negative test. If they develop symptoms, they should isolate themselves.
The guidance also recommends that fully vaccinated people avoid "high-risk" indoor settings such as bars, restaurants, concerts and other gatherings.
As for people who aren't vaccinated, the guidance recommends avoiding all indoor settings and using delivery or curbside pickup for essential shopping.
Private gatherings, both large and small, should be avoided by unvaccinated people, according to the guidance, and they should also delay travel until they are fully vaccinated.
Dallas County was previously in Level Orange, which means there was a moderate risk of transmission.
But the spread of COVID-19 has increased rapidly over the last month, as the Delta variant became the dominant strain in Texas. The Delta variant has been shown to be both more contagious and more severe.
While not all COVID-19 positives are tested for a variant, researchers at UT Southwestern are regularly testing samples through genomic sequencing to determine which COVID-19 strain has infected someone.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that in the last week, 96% of those tested samples at UT Southwestern have been the Delta variant.