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Like JPS in Fort Worth, COVID hospitalizations doubled in less than five days at Parkland Hospital

Per the hospital's chief medical officer, 35 active cases were reported at Parkland last Thursday. That number is at 70 as of Monday.

DALLAS, Texas — The man leading the fight against COVID-19 inside North Texas' largest public hospital says the omicron variant is spreading fast and is now the dominant strain of the virus in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. 

Dr. Joseph Chang, Parkland Hospital's chief medical officer, told WFAA Monday that the hospital would be opening two new COVID wards due to a spike in cases and hospitalizations.

The hospital once shut down its original COVID units and has kept an area of 36 beds available to fight the virus. 

"What we're seeing right now is pretty remarkable," Dr. Chang said. 

"Just two weeks ago, we're talking about omicron taking up about 1% of overall cases in America. Now we're between 70% and 80%--probably even higher." 

New data from UT Southwestern Medical Center backs that up, saying, "The highly transmissible Omicron variant has rapidly eclipsed the Delta variant in many areas of the U.S. and currently accounts for up to 90% of sequenced cases in the region that includes Texas and its surrounding states. Locally, Omicron is now by far the dominant variant of the virus, representing more than 95% of positive tests sequenced at UT Southwestern."

The data also said that "Holiday gatherings have the potential to supercharge transmission levels in our region."

"It's remarkable that in two weeks, this variant can completely take over this country," Chang said. 

The same data said that the peak of the omicron variant is still weeks away, predicting that 800 new infections per day may be reported in Dallas county by mid-January. 

That number is 550 for Tarrant County. Click here to see the full forecasting model. 

Dallas County reported 874 new COVID cases last Thursday. 

Chang said that hospitalizations are rising at Parkland, as well. 

Last Thursday, Chang said he left for vacation, and active cases were sitting at 35. 

On Monday, he said that cases were at 70. Another 40 were convalesced, meaning they were no longer infectious but still hospitalized. 

"We're talking about over 100 patients again, either actively sick or recovering at Parkland Hospital," Chang said. 

Chang added that over 90% of individuals hospitalized are not vaccinated. 

John Peter Smith hospital in Fort Worth told WFAA Sunday that they're treating 80 COVID patients right now and that last week, that number was at 32. 

Omicron is more infectious yet milder than the delta variant, Chang added. 

Meaning the most significant hurdle right now will be keeping hospital staff healthy. 

The higher the infection rate, frontline workers will be in quarantine quicker. 

The CDC is helping with that -- pulling down mandatory quarantine requirements from 10 to five days on Monday for people without symptoms. 

"This has the potential to overwhelm any healthcare system," Chang said. "Once you start cranking up the number of infections in the community, you know, it's going to hit our staff."

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