Local health director says focus remains on vaccinations

Monday, July 19

Denton County Public Health Director Dr. Matt Richardson said Tuesday that the current rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations largely involve unvaccinated people.

During the Denton County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning, Richardson provided an update on the state of the coronavirus pandemic locally. Of all Denton County residents who are eligible for the vaccine, about 62% have had at least one dose and 55% are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department. Richardson made it clear that the remaining 45% are at a higher risk.

“The CDC currently says that hospitalizations are really the hospitalization of the unvaccinated, and we do believe that is the case in Denton County,” Richardson said, adding that DCPH is working to get more precise data about this. “The overarching assumption is very few people in the hospital have received the vaccine. That’s important.”

The number of active cases in Denton County was rapidly declining early this year, as the vaccines were being rolled out, and slowed throughout the spring and early summer. The case count actually started to slowly rise again earlier this month. Monday’s active case count was 1,902, up from 1,444 on July 6, according to DCPH data. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations tripled between July 3 and Monday, rising from 12 to 36. These numbers are nowhere near the peak in January and February, but they show that the pandemic is not over.

Richardson said the two majority variants of COVID-19, alpha and delta, are the main concerns right now.

“If you have COVID-19 currently, we believe it is a variant. The original COVID-19 virus, truly, epidemiologically, no longer exists,” he said. “Research tells us the Delta is much more contagious. The jury is still out on whether it is more deadly.”

These variants are expected to infect unvaccinated people around the world, country, state and county at a fast clip, Richardson said.

“The variants are starting to take hold in the unvaccinated, and the unvaccinated individuals in Denton County really represent fuel for the fire, and that is becoming more and more apparent as COVID-19 progresses and the evolution of the virus continues, the variants emerge.”

Vaccines are readily available at DCPH offices, doctor’s offices and pharmacies around the county, and Richardson urged residents to take advantage of their availability.

“We are going to be concentrating on the unvaccinated. They are the ones obviously most at risk,” he said. “With a more transmissible variant, the idea would be this variant would burn through the unvaccinated more quickly than the original virus did in the un-immune.”

To minimize spread of COVID-19, DCPH urges people to:

  • Maintain at least six feet of physical distance in public settings and when around individuals outside of the household
  • Wear masks or face coverings, which should cover both the nose and mouth, in public settings and when around individuals outside of the household
  • Wash and/or sanitize hands frequently
  • Stay home if you are symptomatic, have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19, or have pending COVID-19 lab results
  • When eligible and available to you, get your COVID-19 vaccine

Click here for more information about COVID-19 vaccines in Denton County. For additional COVID-19 data including active case information by municipality, hospital capacity, and ventilator utilization, visit dentoncounty.gov/COVIDstats.

For information regarding DCPH’s upcoming testing centers, visit dentoncounty.gov/COVID19testing.

For additional COVID-19 health and safety recommendations, visit dentoncounty.gov/COVID19.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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