COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Texas move down, but still near record

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By NewsRadio 1080 KRLD

Hospitals across North Texas have fewer COVID-19 patients than a week ago, but the region still has more patients than during the previous peak last summer. Through Tuesday, the Department of State Health Services said hospitals in the 19 county area had 3,585 COVID-19 patients using 21.8% of capacity.

A week ago, hospitals had about 300 more patients using more than 23% of capacity.

"I think we are all hesitant to call it a downward trend just yet, but we are definitely encouraged," says Dr. Joseph Chang, chief medical officer at Parkland Hospital.

Across Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 12,851 COVID-19 patients Tuesday, 713 fewer than a week ago but still 1,958 more than the previous peak last July.

"This peak is 60 to 70 percent higher than our summer peak, so we are still at incredibly high volumes," Chang says. "Even if we really start going down at the same speed we came up, it'll take another month to get down even to our summer peak."

The Texas Department of State Health Services says 82,310 people received their first dose of the vaccination Tuesday. A total of 1,571,093 people have received one dose in Texas; 297,503 are fully vaccinated.

Dallas County has now reported four cases of the variant in people who had not traveled outside the country. Chang says, even though the vaccine is not available to everyone now, people can use the same tools to protect themselves.

"Whatever mutations occur in that virus, it doesn't make it impervious to soap. It doesn't make it so it can magically pass through your mask or pass through the walls of your house," he says. "The same things that protect us against the original COVID-19 strain will protect us against the variants of the COVID-19 strain."

A forecast by UT-Southwestern predicts hospitalizations in Dallas County will remain flat over the next two weeks; hospitalizations are likely to stay flat or decrease in Tarrant County.

"ICU bed occupancy remains high across the region, continuing to place increased stress on the collective capacity of regional health systems," researchers write.

The report says people surveyed reported spending less time with people outside their immediate family than at the end of December and beginning of January, and "self-reported mask-wearing remains high."

"It is important to remember that people arriving at the hospital today were likely infected ~2 weeks ago. Our collective actions now are critical to changing the course of the outbreak in North Texas," the report says.