DALLAS - As COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases rise in North Texas, mostly among the unvaccinated, public health officials are making a plea for more people to get vaccinated.
They’re also creating more opportunities and incentives to encourage vaccinations.
There are more than 1,000 Coronavirus hospitalizations in North Texas for the first time since early March.
Testing sites are also seeing a surge in people showing up with symptoms.
More than half of Dallas County has been fully vaccinated, but there is still a long way to go, and vaccinations have been slowing down for months.
"Whatever it takes to save lives," said Christian Grisales, with the Dallas County Health and Human Services.
Friday morning, Dallas County Health and Human Services representatives pounded the pavement, going door to door in South Dallas, hoping to reach people who still haven’t gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.
"If we break it down by zip codes, there are many zip codes that haven’t reached herd immunity," Grisales said. "Mainly communities of color, people who might not have access to the information, and that’s why we’re going to those locations."
The county said vaccinations are lagging in South Dallas and the southern parts of the county.
The mass vaccination site at Fair Park just closed last week, and now the county is opening a pop up clinic with the Pfizer vaccine at the same site Saturday, July 24, and Saturday, July 31. They will be giving away tickets to Six Flags, the Dallas Zoo, and the Texas State Fair as incentives.
"We've seen it go down to around 15,000 doses per week in Dallas County," said Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang. "I'm hearing that we did see a little bit of bump most recently, maybe also due to the increased recognition of how the Delta variant is circulating and the impact it's having on our hospital numbers."
In parts of the state, health officials are bringing COVID-19 testing sites back online.
Further evidence that the numbers are headed the wrong way, primarily for the unvaccinated.
The Neighborhood Medical Center drive-thru testing site in North Dallas has seen a recent spike in the number of patients they are seeing.
"Last week, 10 days ago, we were seeing 30 to 40 patients a day. Today, we’re seeing 130, 140. About a 300% increase in a week to 10 days. It’s just gone straight up," Dr. Martin Mcelya said.
Dr. Mcelya said the people showing up for a test this time are different. They are mostly younger, many of whom are old enough to get the vaccine, but haven’t.
"I think a larger part of the population is adolescents and college kids. They’re able to get the vaccine, for whatever reason, haven’t gotten it and they’re always shocked when I say they’re positive because a lot of them think they’re bulletproof," he said.
There’s been a spike in COVID-19 numbers statewide.
The CDC recently said 40% of all new COVID-19 cases were coming from Texas, Florida, and Missouri.
Some officials, like those in the Houston area and Austin, have started asking people to wear masks again even if they’re vaccinated.
At this point, it’s a request only, as Governor Greg Abbott said the time is up for mandates.
"We are in a race against time and we can win," Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said.
The state health department is also putting out a plea for more people to get vaccinated.
Hospitalizations in Texas are up 150% in the last three weeks.
So far, 12 million people are fully vaccinated in Texas.
"These aggressive variants, combined with the millions of Texans who have no protection against the pandemic virus, create the very real potential. We are already beginning to see there can be another surge with devastating consequences for Texans," Dr. Hellerstedt said.
Another challenge is that an estimated 15 million people nationwide have not gone back to get their second dose.
Dallas County has an 86% return rate, but about 189,000 are overdue for second shots.
"It’s not too late to get that second dose. Don’t think, ‘I'm behind schedule to get it. I missed my appointment.’ Go ahead. Go back and get that second dose. It's not too late. It's better to get it than to not," Dr. Huang said.