State chief epidemiologist says Texas could see another surge in COVID-19 cases soon

The state's chief epidemiologist said all the ingredients are getting into place for another COVID-19 surge, fueled by the omicron variant.

In North Texas, providers report more people getting tested and higher positivity rates, which are the beginning signs that we'll start seeing many more new cases.

Texas Chief State Epidemiologist Jennifer Shuford believes the omicron variant is spreading in Texas, but the cases just haven’t been detected yet. 

Her advice heading into Christmas is that people should wear a mask in public and get tested before meeting extended family.

"I'm afraid we have a variant that's spreading rapidly through the rest of the world, and we have evidence that it's spreading rapidly through Texas," Shuford said.

Shuford said Texas is in a "here we go again" situation. 

While COVID cases and hospitalizations aren’t surging yet, there are some signs a surge is coming. 

"This omicron variant is spreading even faster than delta did," she added.

New daily COVID cases in Dallas County are up by about 100, compared to this time last month. 

Tarrant County is also seeing a slight increase in new cases. 

The DFW Hospital Council reported nearly 200 more people are in hospitals, compared to just two weeks ago.

"We think, in the next couple of weeks, we will see how this is going to play out in Texas and other places," Shuford said.

Testing is also ramping up.

"Our numbers of COVID testing have increased quite a bit," Shuford added.

More than 250 people were tested Friday at the Neighborhood Medical Center drive-thru site in Far North Dallas. 

It had been averaging about 100 people a day, until this week.

Roughly 20% of the people getting tested there are testing positive, compared to just 4% a couple weeks ago.

"A lot of people are having flu-like symptoms. they are confusing for the flu because they have the vaccine and maybe their symptoms are a little less so than you would expect of COVID without the vaccine," physician assistant Jenny Bowrind explained.

Shuford wants the unvaccinated to go ahead and get the shot and for those who are already vaccinated go get a booster.

"That really can raise your antibody levels high enough that you won't suffer those really bad outcomes of hospitalizations and deaths," she said. "We've had over 70,000 deaths in Texas, and getting this vaccine can help us prevent any further deaths in our own population."

Shuford has advice for Texans heading into Christmas. 

"Getting tested using a rapid test or an over-the-counter test is also another way that you can identify yourself early, especially if you're going to a big holiday gathering," she said.

The Department of State Health Services is increasing the amount of sequencing done in the lab with tests. 

This means they are expanding what the test is looking for, including the delta and omicron variables.

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