The number of adults and children hospitalized for COVID-19 in North Texas is expected to increase over the next few weeks, according to the latest COVID-19 forecast from UT Southwestern Medical Center.
In a forecast model updated Aug. 30, UTSW said "the current pace of hospitalization growth could put Dallas and Tarrant counties above January surge levels during September" and that the surge may continue to increase stress on healthcare providers.
UTSW said weekly admissions among younger age groups have exceeded January peaks and that increased hospitalizations are made up of people who cannot get vaccinated or are not yet vaccinated and are therefore susceptible to infection.
Collin County, UTSW said, experienced a sizable increase in pediatric hospital admissions over the last week.
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"Increases are also attributable to the highly transmissible delta variant, which now represents 95% of all positive test samples at UT Southwestern and has been linked to more severe disease in some studies," UTSW said.
UTSW said while hospitalizations are increasing they are not increasing as steeply as they were and that levels of hospitalizations may peak around the January 2021 surge levels instead of far exceeding those levels, as predicted earlier this month. UTSW said that the reduction in the forecast is due to increases in self-reported mask-wearing and increases in the number of COVID-19 vaccinations that have been administered in recent weeks.
According to the study, Dallas County is predicted to reach 1,200 hospitalizations by Sept. 16 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. 16 with roughly 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.