More-contagious delta variant of coronavirus on the rise in Dallas County, health experts say
Dallas County reported two more COVID-19 deaths and 106 new coronavirus cases Monday as concerns increase that a new variant of the virus could become the dominant strain in North Texas. The latest victims were a Dallas man in his 80s and a DeSoto woman in her 70s. Both had underlying high-risk health conditions. County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a written statement Monday that about 56.7% of the county’s residents have had at least one shot. President Joe Biden has set a goal of having 70% of eligible people nationwide to get at least one vaccine dose by July 4. Jenkins urged residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible for the overall good of the public, and he noted that the drive-through vaccination site in Fair Park will close in mid-July . “Every day I report deaths and every day around one hundred people are hospitalized in their fight with COVID,” he said. “This now is a nearly preventable occurrence, and we want everyone to take advantage of the free, life-saving vaccines.” A slowdown in vaccinations has come as one coronavirus variant, called the delta variant, has become an increasing source of concern. The prevalence of the variant more than doubled in samples from May 28 to June 3, according to the latest data from UT Southwestern Medical Center, which has been sequencing samples to detect known or new variants. Dr. James Cutrell, an infectious-disease expert at UTSW, said the delta variant, which was first identified in India, is particularly concerning because it is highly transmissible — even more so than the alpha variant that right now is more common in North Texas. As of Thursday, Dallas County had reported 110 alpha variant cases and six of the delta variant. “I predict that in the next two to four weeks, the delta variant will become the dominant one that we’re seeing here in North Texas,” Cutrell said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified delta as a variant of concern last week, as it made up 10% of all cases in the United Stats. A month ago, the delta variant made up less than 3% of cases. In addition to the alpha and delta variants, the United States has four more “variants of concern” — beta, gamma, B.1.427 epsilon and B.1.429 epsilon — according to the CDC. Variants of concern show evidence they are more transmissible, cause more-severe cases or are more resistant to vaccines or antibodies from previous cases of the disease. The current two-dose vaccines protect against the delta variant, but the protection is lower for people who’ve had only one dose. Cutrell said a single dose would offer about 30% to 50% protection, but both doses would offer 88% to 90% protection against the delta variant. Although less information is available about the efficacy of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine against some variants of concern, Cutrell said, it is expected to offer some protection from the severity of those variants. “So the people who are most at risk and most vulnerable from the delta variant are people who haven’t gotten any vaccine at all,” he said. Dallas County no longer reports new coronavirus data on Sundays and instead reports two-day totals on Mondays. The average number of new daily cases in the county for the last two weeks is 104. For the previous 14-day period, the average was 100. Of the latest cases, 96 were confirmed and 10 were probable. The numbers bring the county’s overall case total to 305,506, including 262,274 confirmed and 43,232 probable. The death toll is 4,111. In the 24-hour period that ended Sunday, 89 COVID-19 patients were in acute care in hospitals in the county. According to the state, 1,236,219 people in Dallas County have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 1,037,831 — 47.6% of the county’s population 12 and older — are fully vaccinated. The number of vaccinations administered in Dallas County and across Texas have continued a decline that began in April. Last week, about 408,000 people got vaccinated statewide — the fewest for any week this year, excluding a week in February when a winter storm shut down many vaccine sites. In Dallas County, the number of vaccinations last week was about 40,000, also a low for the year, and the pattern is similar in counties across North Texas. The Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation has pushed back its projection for when Dallas County will reach herd immunity — 80% of residents vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 — to late July .