Texas’ chief state epidemiologist urges the community to get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise

Texas’ chief state epidemiologist urges the community to get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its masking guidance, recommending all individuals to wear masks indoors in areas where transmission rates of COVID-19 are high. (Courtesy Texas Children’s Hospital)

During a media briefing Aug. 4 from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Chief State Epidemiologist Jennifer Shuford urged the community to get vaccinated as the delta variant fuels spikes in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths across all unvaccinated age groups throughout the state.

“​​[The delta variant is] spreading much more rapidly among unvaccinated people than the viruses that we saw last year,” Shuford said. “Some of these people are dying, and many who survive are experiencing those longer-term complications from COVID-19.”

The seven-day average of new cases is up 92% from last week; hospitalizations are up 49%; and fatalities are up 15%, said Chris Van Deusen, director of media relations at the DSHS. But the pace of vaccinations has also picked up. The state hit its vaccination low on July 4 with about 44,000 daily doses, but this number has increased to 75,000 as of Aug. 3, Deusen said.

But unlike the earlier days of the pandemic, Shuford said she expects to see increased cases in younger age groups as those populations are less vaccinated. She said the state is seeing a rise in hospital admissions for those younger than 17 years old.

When asked about precautions for children heading back to school, Shuford said the Texas Education Agency will be releasing guidelines soon. She added that the DSHS recommends those who are not vaccinated wear a mask in public settings. However, Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order in May banning counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities or government officials from imposing mask mandates.

Shuford said vaccination will provide almost total protection from hospitalization and death from COVID-19 and its variants. But to achieve this protection, people must get both doses of the vaccine. About 9.5% of Texans are overdue for their second dose, according to recent data.

“Just looking at fatalities, we can see that our data showed that less than 2% of COVID-19 [deaths] in Texas are in fully vaccinated people,” Shuford said. “When we look at that small group of people who have died of COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, about 95% of them are 60 or older, and over 70% of them have an underlying condition. … So we do believe that being fully vaccinated really can protect people from hospitalization and death due to COVID-19, including those cases caused by delta.”

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