UT Southwestern: COVID-19 hospitalizations rapidly rising in North Texas

Doctors say the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Texas is trending upward at an alarming rate.

"There's been a lot of focus on the number of people who are testing positive and that could be related to overall testing but what we look at is we look at it in greater detail. We identify not just are testing numbers stable and they have gone up slightly but they haven't been reflective of the total number of positive tests that have been coming out which we calculate as percent positivity. And that number has increased significantly," said Dr. Mujeeb Basit with UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The medical experts at UT Southwestern have been gathering data from hospitals including their own across Dallas, Tarrant, Denton and Collin counties. The models show the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations up 24% in a week.

"These numbers that you can see in the last two weeks are trending upward alarmingly and they have been the highest numbers that we've ever seen in the DFW area," Dr. Basit said.

The models also show an increase in hospitalizations specifically in younger patients.

In March, the average hospitalized COVID-19 patient was over the age of 50. Now, hospitals are seeing more and more COVID-19 patients between the ages of 21 and 40. About 50% of hospitalizations are people under 50 and 30% of all critical care patients are under 50.

"We’re now seeing 30-35 year olds in there. They’re now representing an increased portion of the people requiring hospitalization and also requiring ICU care and ventilation, and that’s an alarming trend that we feel is associated with relaxation of measures and more rapid spread amongst different age groups," Dr. Basit said.

Doctors blame large gatherings for the negative trend. UT Southwestern medical experts said they saw bumps in the data around Mother’s Day, Easter and Memorial Day.

The curve flatted out after Mother’s Day and Easter but has yet to do so following the Memorial Day weekend. That concerns them.

Doctors said if the curve from Memorial Day hasn’t flattened out by July 4 and if people attend large gatherings, the number of COVID-19 cases in North Texas could increase exponentially.

The doctors are not sure what – if any effect – recent protests are having on the data.

Whenever there is a large gathering for whatever reason, we may not see the full impact of that until almost 14 days later,” said Dr. Julie Trivedi, UTSW Asst. Professor of Internal Medicine/Infectious Disease. “I think we are still probably in the early stages of seeing whether or not there has been an impact on the number of individuals infected or asymptomatic from any of these large gatherings or protests.”

They continue to encourage people to wear face masks and wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. Dr. Trivedi said the effect of everyone doing so could have a huge impact on slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

"In general, any type of a face covering is going to be better than having no face covering," Dr. Trivedi said.

But she added that a mask that is pulled down below a person's nose or chin doesn't do anything to help.