Health officials say the increase in COVID-19 cases in Denton County coincides with the climbing number cases across the country and that it’s likely due to the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant.

According to Denton County Public Health, the number of active COVID-19 cases began to dip significantly in mid-February as the COVID-19 vaccine began to roll out locally.

The trend continued steadily and hit a low of 1,444 cases July 6. But the number of active cases has gradually started to increase in the last few days and reached 1,750 on Wednesday.

That follows the trend illustrated by the most recent numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC said as of July 3, 59.4 percent of the COVID-19 cases in Region 6 (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico) are the Delta variant. That’s up from 33.3 percent on June 19. 

“There’s a lot of concern with the Delta variant and how much there is of it,” said Juan Rodriguez, assistant director of public health and chief epidemiologist for Denton County Public Health. “It’s more infectious than the B.1.1.7, or Alpha, variant. The trends are going up in Denton County, the state and the U.S.”

He said the fact that Delta is more infectious than previous versions of the virus means it is or will be the dominant strain.

“It spreads easier and faster,” Rodriguez said. “The anticipation is this will be the dominant strain, or that it’s occurring.”

While the number of COVID-19 cases in Denton County is increasing, it’s nothing close to the numbers the county had in late 2020 and early 2021. The peak number of cases occurred on Jan. 29 with 15,387 cases.

Hospital capacity was another concern months ago when up to 235 hospital beds across the county were being used for COVID-19 patients. As of Thursday that number was at 26. Rodriguez said the number of available hospital beds fluctuates depending on the number of employees available to staff the beds.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic health officials encourage residents to wear a face mask, social distance, wash their hands, stay home if they’re sick and quarantine if they have been exposed to the virus.

“But the biggest thing is to get the vaccine,” Rodriguez said, adding that 61.5 percent of Denton County residents eligible to receive the vaccine have gotten at least one dose. “There’s still a good portion who can get the vaccine.”

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