Federal government to help rural North Texas counties combat surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations

Hospitalizations in North Texas have jumped by more than 1,000 people in just the past month.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council said more than 100 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 between Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to the DFW Hospital Council, the number of COVID-19 patients in area hospitals nearly quadrupled in the last 30 days.

Some rural counties are seeing a very high percentage of hospitalizations.

Part of the problem is the number of unvaccinated residents in those areas, though the federal government has a program to help change that.

Overall, the North Texas area remains well below the 15% hospitalization threshold that would trigger rollbacks on business occupancy.

But some rural counties have hospitalization rates well above that mark.

"The majority of the patients that are hospitalized have not been vaccinated," explained DFW Hospital Council President and CEO Dr. Stephen Love.

As of Wednesday, there are 1,381 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the North Texas region.

Love said one in four patients is in the ICU.

He added that some rural counties have higher hospitalization rates, in part, due to lower bed capacity.

"I think also you have to look at the overall vaccination rates and most of the counties where the vaccination rates are lower, they have higher cases that end up going to the hospital," Love said.

In an effort to increase outreach and COVID-19 vaccination rates in rural counties, the federal government is providing funding to states.

Texas is receiving some $7 million to split among 142 rural health clinics.

"A lot of the younger people are not vaccinated and they're ending up in the hospital. And unfortunately, some of them are dying," Love said.

It's a concern shared by Dr. John Carlo, who is part of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 Task Force.

He's worried about what's called long COVID infections, found in roughly 30% of patients.

"Which is extended symptoms up to six months after the infection. So this is not really this is not a trivial infection. It can happen to anybody," Carlo explained.

Dr. Carlo said people with natural immunity need to get vaccinated too due to the mutated Delta variant.

"Once we got this new variant introduced, the herd immunity calculation goes away," he said. "I think that we have to realize that no one individual responsibility is what's going to make this work."

Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, so as case numbers increase, the DFW Hospital Council anticipate hospitalizations will increase.

The Texas Medical Association urged mask-wearing for everyone in schools to protect those students under the age of 12 who can’t be vaccinated.