Steep rise in hospitalizations statewide, vaccine distribution also rising

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a virtual briefing Wednesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services said hospitalizations and cases are rising in the state in unvaccinated people, largely because of the delta variant.

State health leaders reported the seven-day rolling average for hospitalizations was up roughly 50% statewide. They say they’re seeing a steeper increase in hospitalizations this wave.

“We’re seeing steep increases in hospitalizations, steeper than we thought at the same point of even the first wave or the second wave. This alarming rise in cases and hospitalizations makes it even more important for every person to go get fully vaccinated,” DSHS’ chief epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Shuford said Monday.

According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are more than 2.67 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Texas with 11,774 of them reported Tuesday to go with nearly 2,500 probable cases and 51 deaths. Harris County has the highest volume of cases with 425,862. Locally, Travis County has reported 90,126 confirmed cases.

Health leaders also say it appears there’s been a bump in people getting vaccinated over the last month.

The seven-day moving average of doses given to people over 12 years old was roughly 43,000 doses statewide a month ago. It was closer to 75,000 on Tuesday.

Still, health leaders urged people who are not vaccinated go get that first shot now.

They added you need to get both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be fully protected. With the delta variant in particular, the second dose is critical, health leaders said.

Changing virus data means changing guidance

Health authorities are hoping Texans adhere to new guidance, even though life was just beginning to return to pre-pandemic days.

“We sort of get criticized, because one day we say this, and a few months later, we say that, but we’re trying to keep up with the current changes in the way that the virus is acting,” Lubbock’s public health authority, Dr. Ron Cook, said during a briefing on Monday.

He said science changes, and with recent data, he’s pleading with residents to mask up again, regardless of vaccination status.

“It concerns us enough that we need to say it is best to mask, especially if you’re going to be indoors,” Dr. Cook explained.

DSHS said those changes flow with the evolution of the virus.

“Our guidance will change, because we are trying our hardest to base it on science and facts and make sure that we are using the most recent strongest data that we can,” Dr. Shuford said Monday.

Treatment has also changed over the course of the pandemic, Dr. Kishore Yalamanchili, a Texas Tech Physicians Pulmonologist, explained.

“There was an antiviral drug called Remdesivir, it was being used in people who are hospitalized with severe illness, that the studies that resulted in that drug being released showed a very small, like a two day reduction, perhaps in-hospital stay. The meta-analysis got released recently, I think of 7000 plus patients, and basically showed that Remdesivir doesn’t really do anything,” Dr. Yalamanchili explained.

“In medicine, the key is, when we discover early data, sometimes that data seems to be promising. And then as you develop more information, it turns out to be not as great as we think, that’s, that’s okay. That’s how life is,” Dr. Yalamanchili continued.

He and other health experts across the state agree the one constant that will get us to the end of the pandemic is the vaccine, especially with how contagious the new Delta variant is.

“We are seeing people that are in the 20 to 50 age group. We’ve had some quite sick people in their 20s and 30s right now. So one thing to keep in mind is that being younger is not going to make me necessarily bulletproof,” Dr. Yalamanchili said.

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