Frontline hospital workers voiced concern on Friday about the spike in COVID-19 cases that could be setting a path back to the crowded hospital conditions seen earlier in the pandemic.
Parkland Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang said front-line hospital workers and patients who’ve survived COVID-19 do not want to see that return.
He said the rate of vaccination needs to surge.
“I’ve asked all of our employees and I ask all of our public to go out and tell their stories. Impress upon folks what they’ve seen. People believe that. People will see your earnestness and then they will feel your sincerity. That’s what we’ve got to do,” Chang said.
Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council President Steven Love said COVID-19 hospitalization increased 70% in the past two weeks.
On Friday there were 729 COVID-19 patients in Texas Trauma Service Area E which includes 18 North Texas Counties. That was 29 more patients than the day before.
Most of the cases are patients who had not been vaccinated.
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“They’re playing Russian Roulette because the virus is going to seek people that are unvaccinated,” Love said.
The current numbers are small compared with 4,250 in the region in January, but the rate of increase comes with the presence of a new and more aggressive Delta variant.
Love said positive COVID-19 patients infected an average of two and a half additional people with the virus early in the pandemic, but the Delta variant infects between five and eight new people.
“So it’s much more contagious and the doctors are telling me the patients are more acutely ill as well,” Love said.
Dr. Chang said the Delta variant is stickier.
"It sort of sticks itself to our lungs even tighter than the original virus. That’s why it causes more problems," he said.
Parkland Hospital’s COVID-19 unit had as many as 400 patients at a time in the peak of the pandemic last year.
Chang said front-line staff members were relieved when the unit closed in March, with as few as 10 patients at a time at Dallas County’s public hospital.
“But now? Now the vaccinations have slowed. We're only at about 50% in Dallas County, fully vaccinated,” said Chang. “If only one in two are vaccinated in Dallas County, yet when I walk into Kroger, if nobody has a mask on, I know that that's probably not appropriate.”
Chang said there are now between 30 and 40 COVID-19 patients each day at Parkland.
He is concerned about disinformation he sees online, disputing the wisdom vaccination.
“Doctor Google did not go to medical school. I did. The CDC people, people that work at the CDC, they did. These are trusted sources,” Chang said.
Chang and Love said the vaccines currently available are effective against the Delta variant, but they might not protect against new variants if the pandemic continues.
“If people don’t get infected, then mutations don’t occur, new variants don’t arise. So, we’re sort of causing our own problem by not squashing the disease as early as we can,” Chang said.
“The more people that get infected, the more mutations you're going to have and more variants you're going to have,” Love said.
The Hospital Council President said member hospitals are planning for the worst and are better prepared with training, bed capacity and personal protective equipment than they were before the arrival of COVID-19.
Love said they hope it will not be needed.