The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised Dallas County’s Covid-19 threat level to red as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

With a red designation indicating high community transmission, the CDC recommends everyone wear a mask at home while in public and on public transportation. That differs from the yellow designation, which recommends indoor coverage only for individuals at high risk of serious illness.

The CDC also red-listed Collin and Tarrant counties, with Denton County still listed as yellow.

More than 75% of the samples tested by researchers at Texas Southwestern Medical Center represented two of the most infectious Omicron subtypes, BA.4 and BA.5, according to the center’s latest Covid-19 forecast.

Dallas County’s internal Covid-19 status was in the low-risk green category less than two weeks ago. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins moved it to yellow using the county’s grading system.. Dallas County has not yet changed its internal Covid-19 status from yellow, said Dr. Philip Huang, the county’s top public health official.

“Definitely transmissions are increasing, hospitalizations are increasing, and people need to be more careful,” Huang said. “I wouldn’t say it’s an inconsistent message. I think they have a different grading system.

The CDC measures the level of community transmission by combining three metrics: total new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people, total new Covid-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people and the percentage of inpatient beds occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Huang said the county based its internal designation on a number of indicators, and said there is no single metric that makes a difference in the level of Covid-19. Dallas County’s four-color system uses green, yellow, orange and red.

The county’s public health advisory committee, which is recommending changes to Judge Jenkins’ Covid-19 status, will meet Tuesday. Jenkins said he did not know if the committee would recommend raising the county’s internal standards.

Infectious disease experts from the area’s major medical institutions, including UT Southwestern Medical Center and Baylor Scott & White Health, make up the committee, and Jenkins said it looks at more data points than the CDC can.

“That doesn’t mean the public shouldn’t listen to the CCC’s recommendations,” Jenkins said.

More than 725 people have been hospitalized with Covid-19 in North Texas, according to data from the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. Hospitalizations are still more than 4,000 more than the 4,000 reported at the peak of the micro wave at the end of January.

During the first Omicron wave, the outbreak of severe infections rocked hospitals across the region, with many struggling to maintain staffing levels as staff contracted the infectious strain.

The number of cases may be much higher than reported because many people test themselves for the virus at home or skip testing altogether.

BA.5, which recently took over as the main strain of Covid-19 in the United States, appears to cause fewer symptoms than its predecessors, but some groups are still at risk, including the immunocompromised and people over 65.

A total of 6,578 people have died from Covid-19 in Dallas County.

Huang said the Covid-19 vaccine and booster shots are the best protection against the virus. Anyone age 5 and older can receive a booster dose, while those over 50 or over 12 and immunocompromised can receive a second booster dose at least four months after the first.

Federal regulators have approved a pediatric dose of the Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months to 4 years. The age group may choose the Moderna vaccine series, which requires two doses four to eight weeks apart, or the Pfizer series, which requires three doses eight weeks apart.

Recommendations for avoiding Covid-19 at the red risk level

  • Wear a mask at home when in public.
  • Stay up-to-date with Covid-19 vaccines, including booster doses.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of Covid-19.
  • Increase ventilation in the home by turning on fans or opening windows to increase air circulation.



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