DALLAS — Coronavirus cases are down in North Texas, but experts are urging people to continue to make efforts to stop the spread of the virus. That's because hospitalizations in North Texas are either flat or increasing - a contrast from significant decreases in September and October.
UT Southwestern said hospitalizations could increase over the holidays if vaccination rates remain the same, according to the latest projections. The omicron variant, paired with flu season, means people need to be extra vigilant about protecting themselves and others by wearing masks and following proper hygiene, as well getting the vaccine or the booster shot.
Dr. David Winter of Baylor Scott and White said while there's limited information about the omicron variant, it's still important to observe safe COVID protocols.
"If you get a booster, you increase your antibodies, which may help with omicron, clearly helped with delta," Winter said. "So if you haven't gotten a booster, get that. If you haven't gotten the vaccine, now is the time to reconsider."
The omicron variant has been confirmed in 16 states, according to the CDC.
"We know what works, vaccines work," Winter said. "We know wearing masks works. Try to avoid large crowds when you can. Wash your hands. All those things work. I think right now we need to double down because we may be in for a big surge, a big problem, I worry about that."
According to UT Southwestern, the percent test positivity for influenza remains low across the state and in the North Texas region, however, an increasing share of hospital visits are related to influenza-like symptoms.
"These numbers for influenza remain below normal baselines but are much higher than last year," UT Southwestern said.
The number of people hospitalized for COVID in the North Texas region is now either flat or increasing, breaking the "trends of robust declines observed in September and October," UT Southwestern said.
Test positivity rates are closely increasing in several areas and among younger age groups.
In Dallas and Tarrant counties, UTSW said that hospitalizations have decreased by 4% over the past two weeks. It forecasts that hospitalized COVID patients will decrease through Dec. 21.
After the holidays, COVID hospitalizations could increase in Dallas County if there is significant travel between regions that have higher COVID cases and if there are looser restrictions on gatherings indoors.
"These scenarios do not include any potential impact from Omicron variant as it is too early to estimate any variant-specific parameters such as prevalence, transmissibility or immunity escape," UTSW said.
There are 118 available staffed adult ICU beds and five available staffed pediatric beds in the state health department's Trauma Service Area E, which encompasses multiple counties in North Texas.
Trauma Service Area E:
Lab-confirmed COVID patients:
- Adult COVID patients in general beds: 549
- Adult COVID patients in ICU beds: 264
- Pediatric COVID patients in hospitals: 18
- Confirmed COVID admissions previous 24 hours: 138
- Confirmed COVID patients on ventilators: 176
Staffed hospital beds:
- Total staffed hospital beds: 15,794
- Total staffed inpatient beds: 14,817
- Available staffed hospital beds: 1,290
- Available staffed adult ICU beds: 118
- Available staffed pediatric ICU beds: 5
- Available ventilators: 2,247