The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has placed parts of North Texans on alert for the spread of COVID-19.
Dallas, Tarrant and Collin county are now in the high-risk or red category of COVID-19 spread. Denton County is set at yellow.
The red designation differs from the yellow, which only recommends wearing masks indoors for those w high risk of severe illness.
According to the latest COVID-19 forecast by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers, two omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, make up more than 75% of samples that have been tested so far.
At the high-risk level, the CDC is now recommending that people wear a mask indoors, get vaccinated, increase ventilation indoors, and get tested if they have symptoms.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has placed parts of North Texans on alert for COVID-19 spread.
“As long as we do all of those things, we’re going to be OK. So I don’t believe that anyone needs to have an extreme amount of concern. But again, let’s just be smart,” said Dr. Joseph Chang, Parkland Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer.
While the CDC has listed Dallas county as red, county leaders still have their own community spread risk still listed as yellow.
The county’s health committee doesn’t meet until Tuesday, July 19. County judge Clay Jenkins said he doesn’t know yet if local experts will bump the risk level to red.
Dr. Chang said that what we’re seeing now is no cause for concern yet.
“I think my concern level is greater than zero. But you know, on a scale of one to 10, it’s not even close to five at this point,” he told NBC 5.
Dr. Chang said as of Friday morning, Parkland is currently treating 30 patients in the hospital for COVID-19.
“That’s more than the two or three we had two months ago but not dramatically different from the 25 patients we had last week,” said Dr. Chang.
He said other hospitals across DFW – which communicate with each other regularly – are seeing similar numbers.
Dr. Chang said for comparison, at Parkland’s peak, they were seeing 300 COVID-19 patients a day.
“I do not believe that we’re going to have the same situation that we had with omicron and delta, and certainly not to the severity of disease that we saw. Now, we might see people get sick and they might have to stay home. But the severity is probably not going to be anywhere near what we saw before. That’s the good part,” he said.
Researchers at UT Southwestern expect COVID hospitalizations to increase over the next several weeks. Their big concern right now is a steep rise in new patients over the age of 65.
Dr. Chang says what people do in the coming weeks is important. If you’re going to huge gatherings, consider masking up. And stay home if you’re sick.
“We just need to take the right precautions when we do our daily and regular activities,” said Dr. Chang. “Should you wear a mask if you’re walking out on the street with your dog? No, I really think it’s probably overkill to be putting on a mask in that sort of situation. if you’re going to go to Justin Bieber concert with 15,000 other screaming people — OK, that might be a situation you might want to be smart and put your mask on.”
Dr. Chang stressed that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to avoid issues, especially for children, as hospitals keep an eye toward the start of school in a month.
“I don’t see big waves like omicron and delta again. Of course, the ultimate super spreader event is school,” he said. “[Kids] need to be vaccinated right away. Again, this is very basic, very simple, and very straightforward. I know there are a lot of folks with a lot of reasons why they don’t want to get their kids vaccinated. But listen, it’s just being smart. And if we don’t do it, we’re going to see some consequences.”
It’s still too early to say what protocols school districts will decide when that happens.
He added that the hospital is seeing double the cases of heat-related illnesses in their hospital than COVID hospitalizations due to the extreme heatwave in North Texas.