East Texas health leaders believe Delta variant is to blame for recent uptick in COVID-19 cases

UT Health East Texas reports increase in cases in recent weeks
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Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 12:45 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - East Texas health leaders are reporting a recent uptick in cases, and believe the Delta variant could be the culprit.

“We’re making some assumptions that this is the Delta variant, which is more contagious,” said George Roberts, CEO of the Northeast Texas Public Health District.

A recent map showing COVID-19 community spread levels shows three of the seven counties in NET Health’s disease surveillance area are experiencing moderate spread of the virus, and six of the seven counties show an increase in cases using a 7-day rolling rate average.

A map showing community spread levels for COVID-19 during the week of July 6, 2021 through July...
A map showing community spread levels for COVID-19 during the week of July 6, 2021 through July 12, 2021.(NET Health)

According to NET Health, the DSHS testing laboratories in Austin has the only laboratory that is currently able to specifically test for the Delta variant.

“Delta variant testing is not like the COVID rapid antigen tests nor is it anything like the PCR tests,” said Terrence Ates, NET Health Public Information Officer. “Whole Genome Sequencing wasn’t something that was a common thing and was very specialized and expensive. The Public Health Lab of East Texas (PHLET) that is housed at the UT Health Science Center in Tyler is not configured for Delta variant COVID testing and none of our local hospitals have the required lab equipment to conduct Delta variant testing, nor does any of these facilities have a timeframe on when they would have access to the specialized equipment.”

As of Monday, all patients hospitalized with the virus at UT Health East Texas in Tyler were unvaccinated, according to the hospital’s chief medical officer.

“We’ve seen a gradual, but unrelenting rise in cases over the last probably 2 to 3 weeks,” said Dr. Tom Cummins.

Cummins said they were seeing 10 to 15 cases per day about two weeks ago, but those numbers have doubled in recent days.

“We’re going backwards again, and unfortunately if we start to see the kind of activity here that they seeing in Arkansas and Missouri, all of our hospital resources are currently really stretched from a staffing standpoint and it’s going to be very difficult to give people access to the care they need beyond COVID,” Cummins said.


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