Rise in North Texas COVID-19 Cases Heading into New Year

The number of COVID-19 cases in Texas has been rising steadily over the past few months, averaging 2,000-4,000 new cases a day in December, according to the Texas Department of Health.

While this is significantly lower than the omicron surge in early 2022, which averaged 35,000 to 50,000 cases per day, public health officials remain concerned about rising cases.

Juan Rodriguez, chief epidemiologist and assistant director of the Denton County Department of Public Health, said about 1,000 new cases were reported in the county in the last week of December, “the highest number in a long time.”

“But that pales in comparison to just 12 months ago, the winter before, when we had nearly 15,000 cases a week,” he said. “It’s on an upward trend and we’re seeing a new sub-variant in the US that seems pretty contagious and we’re monitoring to see where that goes.”

This omicron subvariant, called XBB 1.5, accounts for about a quarter of all U.S. cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization reports that XBB may have a “higher risk of reinfection” than other options.

“He’s growing fast,” Rodriguez said. “It appears to be highly contagious, so it might not be a good mix for more severe cases.”

Other parts of North Texas, such as Dallas and Tarrant counties, saw similar increases in December.

Chief epidemiologist Russ Jones of Tarrant County Public Health said the county’s COVID-19 levels were set to “high” following a 40 percent increase in hospital admissions during the week of Dec. 26.th. He reported that the number of hospitalizations had increased from 16 per 100,000 people to more than 24 per 100,000 people.

Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Philip Huang said cases in the county began to pick up after Thanksgiving, with more than 2,000 positive cases reported in the last week of December.

“We’re definitely looking forward to still seeing the full impact of New Year’s Eve meetings,” Huang said.

However, Huang said the community has come a long way since last year’s surge.

“Fortunately, we have these new tools, like vaccines, we just have to take advantage of them,” he said.

Rodriguez and Huang said Omicron’s targeted boosters and greater access to antivirals mean there are more opportunities for people who contract the virus. Rodriguez continues to encourage people to get tested and stay at home if they have COVID-19-like symptoms.

“It’s 2023 and it started in 2019,” he said. “I understand that people are a bit apathetic about this and are ready to put up with it, but this is not the end for us.”

Katherine Hobbs contributed to this report.

Any advice? Email Elena Rivera at [email protected] You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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