TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Health officials say the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has tripled locally as the Delta variant starts to affect families.
Over the last week, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported a 76% increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations went up by 30%.
“Three weeks ago, we were in the teens across the division, single digits in every hospital, nobody had a big run, very few ventilator patients. Three weeks later, the numbers have tripled,” Dr. Tom Cummins, Chief Medical Officer of UT Health East Texas, said. “We’ve reopened our COVID unit to try and manage them more efficiently.”
The strain is affecting mostly unvaccinated people, Cummins said.
“We’re at somewhere around 98-100% of the people hospitalized currently are unvaccinated, we have one or two in that 50, but all the others are unvaccinated,” Cummins said.
Compared to vaccinated people, unvaccinated people are more likely to land in the hospital, Cummins says.
“We have had some people who are vaccinated, but most of those are not requiring hospitalization, and certainly not progressing to critical illness.”
Officials highly recommend the COVID-19 vaccine in order to fight the Delta variant.
“That’s one of the best things you can do to protect yourself against COVID-19 and these new variants,” NET Health CEO George Roberts said.
However, only 43% of Smith County residents are fully vaccinated, according to Texas Health and Human Services.
“While a lot of people got vaccinated, there’s still people out there who have not yet received their vaccine,” Roberts said.
Now, the total number has reached 2.5 million cases, and officials urge unvaccinated people to get the vaccine before numbers continue to rise.
“I can’t stress this enough, I recommend all unvaccinated families to get vaccinated,” Cummins says.
Cummins said that there isn’t a specific number of cases for the state to require the mask mandate, but encourages families to continue following CDC protocol.