The number of people in Texas testing positive for and being hospitalized with COVID-19 has climbed to highs not reached since February, according to state data reported Friday.
The Texas Department of State Health Services added 13,149 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Friday and said nearly 6,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
The number of new confirmed cases is the highest single-day number reported since Feb. 2, when DSHS reported 13,570.
The seven-day average that day was 16,738 -- but it was trending down. Friday, that average was 6,442 and it has more than tripled over the last two weeks: from 2,047 on July 15.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
DSHS added there were 295 older confirmed cases reported Friday.
Locally, the seven-day rolling average of new cases in each of North Texas' four largest counties has at least quadrupled in the last four weeks. Dallas County went from a seven-day average of 132 on July 2 to 669 Friday; Tarrant County from 81 to 543; Denton County from 31 to 131; and Collin County from 44 to 248.
The state also reported 2,744 additional probable cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 39 older probable cases.
"For the average person that's infected with COVID, they're going to go infect eight more people," said Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas School of Public Health. "And so this only challenges us even more and it's going to be harder to contain."
Texas also reported Friday 57 deaths in people who tested positive for the coronavirus -- the fourth straight day of at least 35 fatalities -- raising the seven-day average to 36.4. Prior to Wednesday, the seven-day average for deaths had not been above 30 since July 17.
Statewide, 5,846 Texans were hospitalized with COVID-19 Friday, the most since 5,912 on Feb. 26.
In Trauma Service Area E, which serves 19 counties including all of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 1,489 people were hospitalized, five times a low of 289 recorded on June 4. TSA E has not had more than 1,400 people hospitalized with the coronavirus since Feb. 27.
"The majority of the patients are not vaccinated. As a point of reference, we had 368 COVID-19 patients in the hospitals on June 30 so as you can tell, our hospitalizations have increased significantly in 30 days," said W. Stephen Love, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.
He said in TSA E, there were 97 available adult staffed ICU beds and reported the region had 37 confirmed COVID-19 pediatric patients hospitalized, "which is approximately three times the volume a month ago."
In an executive order issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last October, once COVID-19 patients made up 15% or more of a hospital region’s capacity for seven straight days, a series of mandatory limits activated with few exceptions.
That order is no longer in effect, and Abbott on Thursday signed a new executive order making it difficult for local leaders to implement any masking or social distancing requirements.
The hospitalization rate in TSA E on Friday was 8.87%. The only Trauma Service Area to exceed the 15% threshold this week was TSA R, which reported 15.1% on Thursday, but dipped back below the barrier on Friday. That region is in southeast Texas.
As cases and hospitalizations rise, the positivity rate for both molecular and antigen tests has skyrocketed since late June. The molecular positivity rate Friday was 16.68% -- twice what it was July 12 -- and the antigen positivity rate was 7.82%, up from a low of 2.05% on June 7.
As COVID-19 spreads according to all available metrics, doctors and public health officials are urging people to get vaccinated.
While "breakthrough cases" have been reported, health officials continue to caution that they were expected, extremely rare and not a sign of vaccine failure.
"The vaccines continue to protect us against severe disease, which is fantastic. It means that the vaccines really are holding up against hospitalizations and deaths," Jetelina said.
Some county and medical leaders in North Texas have started to implement their own safety measures. Three hospital systems -- Baylor Scott & White, Methodist Health System and Texas Health Resources -- will mandate employees receive the vaccine and a Dallas County district judge issued an order requiring face coverings to be worn in county court facilities.