North Texas doctors worry Labor Day weekend could ignite surge in COVID-19 cases

Those who've been in the trenches treating COVID-19 patients worry North Texas could see a surge in cases linked to Labor Day weekend.

The latest model of how COVID-19 is spreading in the region shows two vulnerable groups: the unvaccinated and children.

The UT Southwestern COVID-19 forecast sees Tarrant County continuing with an increase in people being hospitalized over the next several weeks. In Dallas County, where mask wearing is higher the outlook is more encouraging, with new hospital admissions more or less flat. There is a catch, though.

"We're nowhere near the peak. The peak is anticipated to be the end of September, the beginning of October at this current trajectory. If we see an additional spike from Labor Day weekend, that could potentially be the amount of patients that puts us over the edge," said Dr. Mark Casanova, Dallas County Medical Society.

UT Southwestern says the hospitalizations reflect the spread of the delta variant, which now accounts for almost all positive samples and the large number of unvaccinated people becoming seriously ill.

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Labor Day activities largely resumed across the region on Monday and over the weekend compared to last year.

The Garland Labor Day parade, canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, marched again through Garland for the 75th year.

"It’s just tradition. It’s been going on here for most of these people’s lives and it’s something that brings everybody together every year," said Scott Lemay, Garland mayor.

On the west side of the Trinity, the Fort Worth Runners Club Labor Day 5K filled the streets.

"We've spoken about the fact that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities through this pandemic, but delta has changed a lot," Casanova said.

He said the parade and the 5k, people participating and watching mostly without masks, doesn't bother him as much as what he saw over the weekend -- crowded stadiums at college football games and tailgating parties before kickoffs.

"The amount that this delta variant can transmit, even in outdoor settings that are that close and that packed together, gives us great concern," Casanova said.

He said he remains concerned as pediatric cases in Trauma Service Area E, the 19-county North Central Texas region, are more than double January volumes. Experts say in-person schooling is likely the reason.

"Trauma Service Area E cannot, frankly, take much more. Out of the previous four days, three of those days showed no available staffed ICU pediatric beds," Casanova said.


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