FORT WORTH, Texas — Updated at 9:15 p.m. with more information.
Texas is one of 17 states seeing a jump in COVID-19 hospital admissions, as concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus continue to rise. In North Texas, COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled since June 1.
“When I talk to the doctors and the clinicians, they tell me that the majority of the patients in our hospitals are unvaccinated,” DFW Hospital Council President Stephen Love said. “And the Delta variant continues to grow.”
Cook Children’s infectious disease pediatrician Dr. Nicholas Rister said it comes down to the speed at which the variant can spread.
“The biggest thing with the Delta variant is it's just more contagious," Rister explained.
"It's still COVID: Everything you've heard about COVID and how it presents and looks in kids and adults, that still applies,” he added. “The trick with Delta is that it's just a bit better at spreading. Not really just a bit: It's like 75% more successful at spreading compared to the initial COVID we were having way back when. So that's substantial.”
According to state data, the positivity rate today statewide is at 7.43%, up from 2.80% 25 days ago and the highest it's been since March 1.
At the same time, the 7-day average of new cases in the state is up nearly 90% since June 1. Still, the numbers are far lower than the winter peak, but UT Southwestern expects the numbers to continue to rise through the fall unless vaccinations increase or masking resumes.
And while Love said that number is not as high as mid-January, there has been a steady increase in hospitalizations over the past two to three weeks.
"While COVID-19 patients represent 4.23 percent of our overall hospital capacity, the percent of COVID-19 patients in ICU is 14.66 which was running 6.24 percent on June 18," Love explained. "It appears the Delta variant is increasing in North Texas and the majority of patients in our hospitals with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated. Antidotally, July 4 mobility and travel, the Delta variant and unvaccinated individuals have contributed to more hospitalizations."
Data shows more than a third of these COVID-19 hospitalizations are in Tarrant County.
TSA-E COVID-19 Hospitalizations = 605
Source = DFW Hospital Council
- TARRANT = 222
- DALLAS = 173
- COLLIN = 96
- DENTON = 25
“I don't know what is causing that, but I do know that if you are in Tarrant County or any of the 19 counties (of TSA-E) and you hadn't been vaccinated, you're really kind of playing Russian roulette with this Delta virus,” Love cautioned.
Fort Worth's Stop Six neighborhood has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the county. JPS Health's clinic in the area has provided more than 15,000 vaccine shots so far, but many people still aren't showing up.
“A day like today when you only have 5 or 6 people trickling in, that’s what’s scary," Jennell Watkins, the practice manager said.
Watkins grew up in the neighborhood and said only tragedy is changing minds now.
“A lot of people have either lost a loved one or have someone who’s sick," she said. "Once that happens it kind of opens their eyes to, 'Hey, I could get this'.”
Meanwhile, Cook Children’s in Fort Worth reported three COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Friday. On Monday, that number increased to eight, according to a hospital spokesperson.
“We are seeing more numbers, which means we're seeing more sick kids, and the expectation over the next coming weeks and months is that we'll likely see more of that,” Rister said.
In addition to the typical symptoms of COVID-19 - fever, cough, shortness of breath - Rister advised parents to look out for gastrointestinal or abdominal symptoms, which “can be pretty prominent.”
“It's not that adults can't have that, but we do have a fair number of kids who primarily present with like, 'my stomach hurts or I have diarrhea,'” Rister explained.
North Texas medical experts continue to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“For the kids that are old enough to get the vaccine, we're highly recommending that. We're asking people to be aware that COVID still exists,” Rister said.
“Look at the situation. Look at the Delta variant. Look at the people in the hospital and the majority were unvaccinated. Why not give serious consideration and make an informed decision and get vaccinated?” Love said.