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Texas COVID-19 Hospitalizations Could Soar In September With Unchecked Delta Variant Spread

Spencer Selvidge/KUT News

The latest projections from the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium show the potential for 15,000 or more hospitalizations and 8,000 or more ICU patients, on a given day in September.

From Texas Standard:

The latest projections for what Texas could be facing when it comes to COVID-19 hospitalizations are troubling.

The University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium regularly publishes graphs showing what to expect in the near future based on today’s trends. Its latest update shows the number of hospitalizations and ICU patients skyrocketing in September.

Courtesy University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium

Spencer Fox is associate director of the consortium. He told Texas Standard that Texas is facing a surge at least as large, and possibly larger, than last winter’s surge – what many considered to have been the “peak” of the pandemic so far.

What’s happening now can seem contradictory, Fox admits, now that COVID-19 vaccines are available. But he says there just aren’t enough people vaccinated to keep such a surge at bay.

“People have been getting vaccinated, but still not quite enough. Texas is lagging the rest of the country in terms of vaccinations, and and there’s pockets of the state that really only have 30% of the population vaccinated,” he said.

Plus, the delta variant of COVID-19 is far more transmissible than previous variants – and it can spread even among vaccinated people. Fox says public officials have the difficult challenge of communicating those complexities.

“It’s a really tough communication issue,” he said. “So, if you get vaccinated, not only are you less likely to wind up in a hospital, you’re also less likely to transmit to others. However, since vaccinated people seem to be able to transmit a little bit, it’s important for everyone to take precautions to prevent community transmission.”

Still, by far the majority of people getting sick during this latest surge are unvaccinated people. Fox urges everyone to get vaccinated; he says it is an important “tool in our arsenal” for stopping the spread. Wearing masks indoors or in high-risk situations is another useful too, he says.

Stopping that spread is key because if the virus spreads unchecked, hospitals could soon be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, including those needing intensive care. The consortium’s latest projection for September shows a possible 8,000 people in an ICU bed on a given day – at least twice as many as during the January surge.

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Michael Marks
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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