DALLAS (AP) — The increasing rates of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Texas are showing steeper jumps than past surges, state health officials said Wednesday as they stressed the need to be fully vaccinated to slow the state’s third wave brought on by the delta variant.
In a video conference, Chris Van Deusen, the Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman, said the rolling seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has soared by 92% from last week, while hospitalizations rose by 49% and fatalities grew by 15%.
The increase was blamed on the highly contagious delta variant, which can even be spread by those fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, the state epidemiologist.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 80% of all new COVID-19 cases involve the delta variant. “And our preliminary data suggests that over 75% of COVID-19 cases in Texas are now due to the delta variant,” Shuford said.
She added that the rise in new cases “is similar to what we’ve seen in previous waves and might even be steeper. And that really shows how contagious the delta variant is. It’s spreading much more rapidly among unvaccinated people than the viruses that we saw last year.”
In the face of such grim statistics, Van Deusen said the rolling seven-day average of vaccinations has also climbed about 75% in the past month, from about 44,000 a day on July 4 to about 75,000 per day as of Tuesday.
“It really seems that people are getting the message that this is a serious situation. If they have been putting off getting vaccinated, now’s the time to stop. Don’t put it off any longer,” he said.
However, CDC data show just 44% of the state’s population was fully vaccinated, meaning both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“Breakthrough cases” among those who have been fully vaccinated are inevitable, especially among those without strong immune responses, Shuford said. “We know that no vaccine is perfect. They never will be.”
But those vaccinated people who do get sick with COVID-19 are likely to have a shorter, milder illness. “And fully vaccinated people are very well protected from severe illness and death from COVID-19, even from the delta variant,” Shuford said.
She also emphasized the importance of following recently updated CDC guidelines on masking and social distancing in indoor public settings, especially children aged 2-12 who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.