The latest revision to the UT Southwestern Medical Center COVID-19 forecast says the number of people hospitalized for the virus is expected to continue to increase over the next several weeks.
In a forecast model updated Sept. 1, UTSW said in Dallas County, where self-reported masking levels in public have risen to near 80%, new daily hospital admissions are relatively flat.
That's not the case elsewhere in the Metroplex, however, where UTSW said admission volumes continue to increase and "add stress to the collective capacity of regional health systems."
In Dallas County, Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and County Judge Clay Jenkins have taken steps to mandate masks in schools and across the county as a recommended mitigation strategy. While some other school districts have implemented mask mandates, county judges in Denton, Collin, and Tarrant counties have not challenged Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order blocking mask mandates.
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UTSW said weekly admissions volumes among younger age groups have exceeded their January peak and pediatric admissions are nearly double January volumes and growing.
According to the study, Dallas County is predicted to reach 1,100 hospitalizations by Sept. 19, a slight drop from the previous report, and roughly 1,200 new infections per day. In Tarrant County, under the same set of circumstances, the study predicts 1,300 concurrent hospitalizations by Sept. 19 with more than 1,000 new infections per day.
UTSW's model highlights that curbing the spread of the virus is reliant upon increasing the number of vaccinations and modifying current behavior patterns to mirror those of October-November 2020 when there were mask mandates, limited social distancing, and some restrictions placed on businesses.
Should those mitigation efforts be restored, the model predicts the peak of this fourth wave would begin to drop much more quickly.
UTSW said it is still possible to avoid the worst-case scenarios if vaccination volumes return to prior levels. They added that people under 65 make up the largest segment of hospitalizations and that because they are unvaccinated they remain particularly susceptible to infection.
"Everyone is strongly encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine. As part of our ongoing commitment to an equitable, effective, and efficient vaccination rollout, UT Southwestern has launched an online scheduling portal where all Texans – age 12 and up – can schedule a vaccination appointment: utswmed.org/vaccines," UTSW said.
The hospital recommends visiting the CDC website for guidance on which kinds of activities are safe once fully vaccinated, as well as which levels of prevention are recommended.
UTSW previously said that it is important to remember that people arriving at the hospital today were likely infected around two weeks ago -- meaning any change in behavior will take some time to show up in the data.