North Texas health leaders continue to track COVID-19 trends, with at least two counties raising their risk and spread levels this week.
The Centers for Disease Control announced this week that the coronavirus subvariant BA.5 accounted for nearly 54% of the country’s COVID-19 cases, while a similar subvariant BA.4 makes up about 17% more.
UT Southwestern in Dallas has played several roles in North Texas’ fight against COVID-19 including taking care of patients, clinical trials and research. Dr. Trish Perl has been helping advise UTSW with its research on viruses and variants.
“The current variants that are really infiltrating, if you will, and really circulating are the BA.4 and the BA.5,” Perl said. “In Dallas, our most recent data that it’s at almost 80% or 78% are those variants.”
Perl said right now, research is too premature to determine whether the subvariants are any less or more severe than other subvariants.
“Our initial impression is that in vaccinated individuals, we’re seeing a mild illness,” Perl said. “This virus is very tricky, and we have been burned in the past. So, we’re very mindful of that slow steady increase.”
This week, Dallas County raised its COVID-19 risk level to yellow as North Texas health authorities continue to report rising coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations.
Tarrant County also raised its COVID-19 community spread level to “high.”
“When we were at a low, we were getting 60-70 cases a day. Now, it’s not unusual to see 600, 700 a day. Just in the matter of 10, or 12 weeks, we have really turned around. On a high day, I think I’ve seen recently as high as 1,300 reported,” Tarrant County Public Health director Vinny Taneja said. “It’s not as bad as we saw last year in July or even when we saw a huge surge in December, January. That was pretty bad.”
Taneja said the rise in spread level should serve as an “early warning” to stay vigilant.
He and other health leaders are recommending people wear masks indoors and keep safe distances once again. It’s also important to stay up to date on vaccines, Taneja said.
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