North Texas COVID-19 surge showing some signs of a plateau, health officials say

Hospitalizations in North Texas jumped again even as county health directors pushed a cautiously optimistic view of this current wave.

They say they're starting to see signs the omicron wave is starting to plateau.

After a small dip in hospitalizations Monday, there is another increase with more than 4,000 COVID-19 patients in North Texas.

It’s the highest number North Texas has reached since last January and one of the highest we’ve seen since the pandemic began.

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Health officials across North Texas are optimistic we may soon be over the hump in terms of new COVID cases. The state’s positivity rate has declined for three days in a row since Friday. But hospitalizations aren’t showing any sign of going down yet.

After a brief decline on Monday, they shot up again Tuesday. But when compared to the sheer number of new cases, it could be worse.

"Cases are more than double, and yet hospitalizations are really about even," said Denton County Public Health Director Dr. Matt Richardson. "So that’s really good news that this wave, this surge is not driving hesitations double of what it was last year or even delta."

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That may be attributed, in part, to the fact that more vaccinated people are getting infected, and they’re still less likely to get sick enough for the hospital.

UNT Health Science Center Epidemiologist Shane Fernando also says the omicron variant is affecting the body differently.

"It seems to reside mostly in the upper respiratory area of the human body, and it doesn't do it that well," he said.

But Fernando says it’s too soon to see whether this surge will lead to the number of deaths we saw with previous surges.

"I’m still seeing that the number of deaths are predominantly due to delta. But we won't see in the long term yet how many deaths were attributed to omicron."

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Health officials are looking to other states while trying to gauge when the omicron surge will peak. 

"It accelerated real fast and in other places like New York and other parts of the country. We’re seeing a sharp decline following that upsurge. So we’re hopeful that it happens here as well," said Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja.

But Fernando warns the decline in Texas may not be as sharp.

"Because our vaccination rates are so low comparatively to the northeast, we are less likely to see such a quick drop," he said.

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Richardson and Fernando agree that the next 10 days are critical in determining where we are in the surge.

Stephen Love with the DFW Hospital Council says we may even have a clear picture by the end of the week.