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At Hospitals Across Dallas-Fort Worth, COVID-19 Has Returned With a Fury

Since January, just seven of Parkland’s more than 1,100 hospitalized COVID-19 patients have been vaccinated.
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Courtesy: Parkland Hospital

Updated at 7:20 p.m. with the latest region-wide hospitalization numbers.

Yesterday, I emailed the major hospital systems in Dallas a few questions about their COVID-19 patients. Parkland was the only one forthcoming with information. I skipped UT Southwestern, which maintains a patient census on its website and includes details of those hospitalized in its weekly forecasts.

According to Dr. Joseph Chang, Parkland’s chief medical officer, the county has informed the hospital that about 90 percent of its patients are sick with the highly contagious delta variant. “We assume all (patients) are delta at this point,” he writes. UT Southwestern said the same thing about its patients. There are currently 85 patients in Parkland; five weeks ago there were seven, the lowest in the pandemic. (The high point came in the winter, when 200 were being treated.)

Since January, Parkland has treated more than 1,100 patients. Of those, only seven have been vaccinated. That’s .6 percent total. Across all of Parkland’s points of care, the positivity rate for COVID-19 is 22 percent. Its high was 33 percent.

UT Southwestern’s Clements University Hospital is currently treating 47 patients; in the height of last summer, before the vaccines were available, Southwestern’s peak was 61. We’re right back in this, but the vaccinated will more than likely avoid hospitalization even if they are infected with the virus. That’s rare in itself: according to data analyzed by NBC News, just .08 percent of the 164 million Americans who are fully vaccinated have tested positive. (Of course, in some cases, the symptoms or so mild or nonexistent that the vaccinated individual may not get tested before they pass.)

I’d like to direct you to this story in the Dallas Morning News, where Sharon Grigsby went back into Parkland like she did last year. That’s the COVID ward—blocked off by red doors that read “restricted,” signaling to others that the highly transmissible disease lurks here—where a vast majority of unvaccinated patients are so sick they need constant attention.

A variation of this story is likely happening across North Texas. I didn’t get numbers back from Baylor Scott & White, Texas Health Resources, or Medical City, the three largest systems in our region. Medical City did say that 97 percent of its patients are unvaccinated, “reinforcing how vital it is that the community protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated.”

Texas Health Resources directed me to the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, which tracks the patient census across its member hospitals. For COVID-19, that means Trauma Service Area-E, a few dozen hospitals spread across 19 counties.

There are currently 1,957 COVID-19 patients being treated in our region. On June 30, there were only 368 patients in those same hospitals. That is an increase of 431 percent in a little under six weeks. (On Thursday, there were 537 in Dallas County alone. Tarrant had 711, Collin had 258, and Denton had 103.)

UT Southwestern’s latest forecasting report was published on August 2. It projects a surge higher than last winter, when cases and hospitalizations peaked locally. That’s if vaccination rates continue as they are. On Friday, you can walk up to Fair Park’s Gate 16 and get a shot between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. during the mayor’s Back to School Fair. You can do that on Saturday, too. In fact, you can do that any Saturday through September 18. If you’re not near Fair Park, here’s a link to set up an appointment.

Get vaccinated. Hospitalizations are only going to increase.

“Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator,” says Steve Love, the president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. He’s referencing how it takes time for a positive case to grow severe enough to need medical attention. “As case numbers increase, we anticipate hospitalizations will increase.

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