As the Omicron variant spreads through the country, hospitalizations have surged in North Texas, doubling at Parkland Hospital in five days.
According to Parkland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Joseph Chang, Omicron has become the dominant strain in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He told WFAA the hospital will be opening two new wards to treat Covid patients.
“What we’re seeing right now is pretty remarkable,” Chang said. “Just two weeks ago, we’re talking about Omicron taking up about 1% of overall cases in America. Now we’re between 70% and 80% — probably even higher.”
The UT Southwestern Medical Center also released new information that backs up Chang’s claim, according to WFAA.
The data states, “The highly transmissible Omicron variant has rapidly eclipsed the Delta variant in many areas of the US and currently accounts for up to 90% of sequenced cases in the region that includes Texas and its surrounding states. Locally, Omicron is now by far the dominant variant of the virus, representing more than 95% of positive tests sequenced at UT Southwestern.”
The Medical Center added that “Holiday gatherings have the potential to supercharge transmission levels in our region.”
According to the new data, it will be weeks before the Omicron variant is at its peak. It has been predicted that Dallas county could see 800 new cases a day by the middle of January. Tarrant County expects to see 550 daily.
Chang said, “It’s remarkable that in two weeks, this variant can completely take over this country.”
On Thursday, Dallas County reported 874 new Covid cases. Clay Jenkins, the county’s chief elected official, shared the numbers on Twitter.
“Dallas County Reports a Total of 874 New Positive 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Cases and 17 Deaths, Including 188 Probable Cases,” Jenkins’ tweet read.
He encouraged North Texans to wear masks, get vaccinated, and follow CDC guidelines.
According to Chang, when he left last Thursday for vacation, there were 35 active cases at Parkland Hospital. When he returned on Monday, the number had risen to 70. There were also 40 patients who were still hospitalized but no longer infectious.
“We’re talking about over 100 patients again, either actively sick or recovering at Parkland Hospital,” Chang told WFAA.
The John Peter Smith hospital in Fort Worth had 80 Covid-positive patients on Sunday, December 26. Last week the number of patients was 32.
According to Chang, the Omicron variant is milder than Delta but more infectious. This puts frontline workers at a higher risk of getting infected and having to quarantine.
The CDC changed the quarantine requirements from ten to five days for those that don’t have any symptoms, according to WFAA. The decision was made on Monday and may prove helpful for hospital staff.
“This has the potential to overwhelm any healthcare system,” Chang told WFAA. “Once you start cranking up the number of infections in the community, you know, it’s going to hit our staff.”
He added that more than 90% of those hospitalized at Parkland had not yet been vaccinated.