DALLAS — COVID-19 cases and concern are again ticking back up as summer begins, and researches at UT Southwestern predict a rise in North Texas hospitalizations in the coming weeks.
Dr. Mark Casanova is on the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 task force, which hasn’t gone away even if concerns about the virus have.
“Until COVID is over completely, we’re still going to be at it,” he said. “What’s important to remember is that each subsequent bug has become more effective at transmission than its predecessor.”
Two weeks ahead of Memorial Day travel, New Orleans moved its risk level up to medium and New York’s is now up to high.
“We do have it on our radar. We are watching it closely. We are seeing those numbers go up here in Dallas County,” Casanova said. “We can expect to see some of those same increase now to what extent, that remains to be seen.”
The good news is hospitalizations in North Texas are still staying flat and low, but weekly cases statewide have ticked up and the number of cases per week in public schools have roughly doubled in the past month.
Case counts may hide the full picture, too.
“The interesting positive of having so many more at home tests, which is great, now blinds us to a certain degree to individuals who are positive,” said Casanova.
There are more tests now available. This week, the US Postal Service announced it is letting families order another round of free at-home kits, this time, but to eight each.
Dallas County’s wastewater testing system got a wider sample of the area and has also seen a slight uptick in prevalence.
“If you’re in those tight areas, consider wearing a mask,” Casanova said. “Just because we don’t have a mask mandate is not the message to not wear a mask.”
By now, it’s clear outdoor gatherings are better than indoors, and high-risk families should be on higher-alert. Vaccines are good. Boosters are clearly better.
Unvaccinated adults are 5 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who have had a booster, according to CDC data.
Some health researchers believe waning immunity from the late Omicron variant surge and lack of updated booster shots could be to blame for the recent rise in cases. Tuesday the FDA authorized booster shots of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old.
“If the next fire wave of COVID comes around is it going to burn like wildfire or are enough of us protected,” Casanova said.
Last week, flags across the country went to half-staff to honor passing 1 million U.S. COVID deaths. It’s not a reason for fear but a visible reminder for caution.