DALLAS - Hospitalizations in North Texas due to COVID-19 continue to increase sharply, with the vast majority of them unvaccinated people.
One month ago, on July 4, there were 398 COVID-19 hospital patients in the 16-county North Texas region. On August 4 that number is 1,922 and that total increased by 36 patients compared to Tuesday.
COVID-19 is also spreading across Texas at an alarming rate. The Department of State Health Services said Wednesday that 75 percent of new COVID-19 cases in Texas are the highly contagious Delta variant.
"What you can see is the rise in cases is similar to what we've seen in previous waves and it might be deeper and that really shows how contagious the Delta variant is," said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, Chief State Epidemiologist.
While positive cases and hospitalizations are up sharply, the death rate has not followed a similar increase yet. Shuford noted that since vaccinations began, nearly all COVID-19 deaths in Texas have been people who were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated. State data shows nearly 10 percent of Texans are overdue for their second shots.
"It's really important with the Delta variant to get your second dose," said Saroj Rai, DSHS Senior Scientific Advisor.
Due to soaring COVID-19 cases, Dallas County raised the color-coded warning level back to red late Tuesday -- the most severe point on the scale. That means county health officials recommend that even fully-vaccinated people should voluntarily wear masks indoors and avoid large gatherings.
Parkland's chief medical officer is also worried about the increase in hospitalizations.
Dr. Joseph Chang says without any state assistance his staff is spread thin. Beds are filling up fast with mostly unvaccinated patients.
"Of course that's frustrating. If we were able to get folks vaccinated up to that heard immunity level of 80 percent, we wouldn't be dealing with this at all," he said.
The city of Dallas has been trying to tackle vaccine hesitancy by implementing a raffle. Mayor Eric Johnson said it led to 2,000 people getting vaccinated in June and July.
Johnson on Wednesday implored parents and their eligible children 12-and-older to get vaccinated at the mayor's back-to-school event this Friday at Fair Park. It's open to the general public too.
"[It’s] taking one additional step toward putting this horrible pandemic behind us once and for all," Johnson said.
School districts are prohibited from creating mask rules under orders from Gov. Greg Abbott, even for younger students who are not yet vaccine eligible.
Despite the latest case surge, the governor reiterated his position during a stop in Dallas on Wednesday that safety protocols should be voluntary and he will not issue any new health mandates.
"The surest way to end the pandemic is for everyone who wants one to make sure they get the vaccine. That said, going forward in Texas, there will not be any government imposed shutdowns or mask mandates. Everyone already knows what to do," Abbott said.