The steep increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is moving the needle on vaccination rates in Dallas County. The county had for weeks been stuck at 15,000 new vaccinations every seven days, but the county has since been averaging 25,000 per week, according to Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation CEO Steve Miff.
The increased vaccinations follow a period where active cases went up 730 percent since the low point this June. Hospitalizations and ICU patients with COVID-19 have also increased by more than 300 percent during that time. The state and nation are experiencing similar trends. Texas is looking for additional healthcare workers outside of the state, and there are few available ICU beds in many counties throughout the state, particularly in rural communities where vaccination rates are lowest.
While increased vaccinations are good news for the overall health of the county, vaccination rates within ZIP codes still vary widely. In southern Dallas, the Red Bird area and ZIP code 75237 is still sitting at less than 22 percent vaccinated. Hutchins, South Dallas, and Pleasant Grove aren’t much better, with rates ranging from 23 percent to 30 percent. Meanwhile, ZIP codes downtown are 80 percent vaccinated, and East Dallas ZIP codes 75214, 75204, and 75206 are around 60 percent vaccinated. University Park and 75225 is more than 68 percent vaccinated, and Highland Park and 75205 is at 56 percent, according to PCCI (see full list of ZIP codes below). It shows that public health advocates will need to do more to reach these residents.
But with hospital systems and many employers soon to require COVID-19 vaccines to work, rates will continue to go up. Adding 25,000 vaccinations per week is about one percent of Dallas County, inching its way toward further immunity. Though PCCI estimated that Dallas County had reached the so-called herd immunity metric of 80 percent vaccinated this summer, the prominence of the delta variant means that higher rates of immunity are required.
Miff thinks North Texas will continue to see rising cases for at least the next three to four weeks, based on comparisons PCCI has done with Israel and the UK. The latter is a few weeks ahead of the Dallas County as it relates to the spread of the delta variant.
In the UK, 8 percent of the population had confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and 55 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. In Israel, 10 percent of of the country had confirmed positive cases and 60 percent of the country is fully vaccinated. Dallas is behind in total immunity, with 12 percent of the population having confirmed cases and only 43 percent vaccinated. Because of Dallas’ lower immunity rates, it will continue to see a rise in cases unless vaccination rates change. Miff says the increase should continue into schools starting, which could exacerbate the problem. He adds that it is hard to predict when the current wave will crest, but in the UK, new cases have already begun to come down.
Despite the optimism, UT Southwestern’s forecasting of the future of COVID-19 and the delta variant paints a bleak picture. Their models predict that the delta surge will exceed the January peak in new cases and hospitalizations, as hospital volumes have already gone up 96 percent in two weeks and 414 percent in the past month. UTSW’s models predict 1,800 new daily cases and 1,500 concurrent hospitalizations in Dallas County by the end of the month without any major changes to vaccination rates or other behavior.
The models also predict that mask mandates, social distancing, and increased vaccinations could bring us closer to the end of the current peak. If Dallas County returns to the precautions taken last fall, there may be very few cases per day by the end of October. On Wednesday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued an executive order that all businesses, public schools, and county buildings must require masks. Businesses and organizations that don’t comply face a $1,000 fine for each violation, although individuals won’t face any penalties.
Time will tell if either the mask order or the increased vaccination rate puts a dent in the spiking cases.
“Delta is whole new calculation,” Miff says.
Find the vaccination rate of your Dallas County ZIP code below.
ZIP Vaccinated Population (%)