Between July 28 and Aug. 4 in Texas, new cases of COVID-19 increased by 92 percent from the previous week, hospitalizations went up by 49 percent, and fatalities rose 15 percent, according to data from the Department of State Health Services. This third wave of the pandemic in the state is being driven by the delta variant, said Chris Van Deusen, director of Media Relations for the DSHS, at a news briefing Wednesday, Aug. 4.
The only way to stop the spread is to increase the number of vaccinations, he said. Just as important, those who have received the first dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines should make sure to get that second dose, which has been found to be effective in fighting off the delta variant.
“This is a serious situation,” Van Deusen said. “If you have been putting (vaccination) off, now is the time to stop putting it off.”
In Texas, 9.5 percent of people who have gotten their first dose of the vaccine have not yet gone back for the second dose, said Dr. Saroj Rai, DSHS scientific advisor.
“Go and please get your second dose as soon as possible, even if it has not been 42 days yet,” she said. “With the delta variant on the increase, the second dose is important.”
According to the DSHS, 75 percent of COVID-19 cases in Texas are now caused by the delta variant, which is much more contagious and symptomatic than the original strain of the coronavirus that causes the disease. All strains combined, the virus has killed more than 614,000 people in the United States over the past 18 months. Texas reported 52,221 deaths as of 4 p.m. Aug. 4.
“The best way to turn those numbers around is vaccinations,” Van Deusen said. “The good news is that those are beginning to pick up.”
Vaccinations are free and readily available, said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, chief state epidemiologist at the DSHS. She presented data from each of the state’s three COVID-19 infection waves.
“This third wave, which is the delta variant, is spreading much more rapidly,” she said. “The rise in hospitalizations is alarming, which makes it more important for everyone to get vaccinated. We know no vaccine is perfect, it never will be, but we do know most vaccinated people are protected from getting sick from COVID, even the new delta variant.”
The DSHS is awarding $50,000 to $150,000 grants to groups engaged in vaccine education with the goal of increasing the number of fully vaccinated Texans. A total of $10 million in federal funds will be awarded through the state to educational agencies, faith-based organizations, government entities, community coalitions, associations, and nonprofit groups.
“Community-based organizations have played a critical role in ensuring people across Texas have access to COVID-19 vaccines, and they have innovative ideas about how to engage the communities they work with,” said Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services. “These grants will give them the resources to expand their efforts to serve hard-to-reach communities that have been seriously affected by the pandemic.”
The DSHS is partnering with the Texas A&M University Health Science Center to administer the Texas Vaccine Outreach and Education Grant program.
Applications are being taken online for the grants, which will be issued around the end of August. Priority will be given to rural communities, communities of color, and Texans with disabilities.
To find a nearby vaccination site, visit dshs.texas.gov/covidvaccine/.