Dallas County is ending the year on a grim milestone: More than 2,600 new COVID-19 infections were reported on New Year’s Eve, as people ring in 2022 and cases of the highly contagious omicron variant soar nationwide.
The county reported 17 new coronavirus deaths and 2,614 new cases Friday. Of the new cases, 1,902 were confirmed and 712 were probable. The numbers bring the county’s overall case total to 435,153, including 366,469 confirmed and 68,684 probable. The death toll is 5,546.
“We see a notable increase in the number of positive cases as omicron takes hold in north Texas,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a written statement. “I hope [New Year’s Eve] is a fun night for everyone shared with people that you love. But I also hope that you celebrate safely.”
The average number of new daily cases in the county for the last two weeks is 1,064 — a more than three-fold increase from the previous 14-day period, which averaged 353. The county reported that 541 people were hospitalized with the virus.
Total cases in Dallas County have also more than doubled since last New Year’s holiday, while deaths have more than tripled. Last year, on New Year’s Day, the county reported 193,318 total confirmed and probable cases and 1,628 deaths.
Public health officials recently raised the county’s COVID-19 threat level to red, or “high risk of transmission,” this week in response to the spike in cases and hospitalizations.
Parkland Memorial Hospital’s emergency room saw 997 patients on Tuesday, a one-day record for the hospital, while the positivity rate for the virus across the Cook Children’s Health Care System quadrupled in just one week.
Testing has also become limited across North Texas, as demand for rapid and PCR tests spiked around the holidays.
Gov. Greg Abbott asked the federal government Friday to deploy more tests to areas with high hospitalizations and positivity rates, including Dallas and Tarrant counties.
Jenkins urged people to wear masks and limit the size of their holiday gatherings, amid the surge. Jenkins also said research shows cloth masks are not as effective against the new variant, and surgical or N95 masks are preferable.
According to the state, 1,722,860 people in Dallas County have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Thursday, while 1,475,688 — 60% of the county’s population 5 and older — are fully vaccinated.
The state dashboard was not updated Friday in observance of the holiday, a note on the site said.