North Texas hospitals are bracing for a possible rise in COVID-19 patients as the omicron variant spreads and families get together for Christmas.
Omicron already accounts for 94% of new cases in Texas, experts say.
Tarrant County public health director Dr. Vinny Taneja said families should be cautious about mixing with unvaccinated relatives.
“Do you want to take that chance?“ Taneja asked. “You cannot ask the status. That’s your choice. You can ask the status, and if the person is forthcoming, great. If they’re not, you make the decision, do you want the person invited to your house.? Again, it’s about your family.”
But the data is mixed. Hospitalizations remain flat across North Texas and COVID patients fill an average of about 5% of hospital beds.
That’s way down from the peaks this summer and last winter.
Still, with the jump in infections, experts say there’s never been a better time to get vaccinated and get boosted.
“I just don’t want people to take chances. I want them to get vaccinated. Come on folks!” said Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.
In an impassioned plea, Whitley, a Republican, put it bluntly.
“The ex-president has said he got his booster,” he said. “You know, we can make this as political as we want to, but Trump got vaccinated and he got the booster so I don’t understand the logic behind not doing this.”
Vaccine or no vaccine, health officials say the unseasonably warm weather ahead could be a positive.
“We’re going to have 80 degrees on Christmas,” Taneja said. “So let’s get your gathering outdoors if we can and if not, open some doors and windows. Let some air circulation going.”
Dr. Robert Rogers, past president of the Tarrant County Medical Society, says even though omicron spreads fast, it seems to pack less of a punch than feared.
“Things are changing rapidly again,” Rogers said. “I’m encouraged by the South Africa data. And if omicron does turn out to be a virus that causes less severe disease, that will be really good news. We’re going to know that in a few weeks.”
At least until then, he says, people need to take precautions to stay safe.
He also suggested people take rapid at-home tests the day of family gatherings.