With COVID-19 cases and the Delta variant on the rise, the Texas Department of State Health Services says getting young people vaccinated is a top priority and it hopes one way to do that is through a pop-up festival in Fort Worth this Friday.
The department will be set up outside Walmart at 2900 Renaissance Square from 3 to 7 p.m. on Friday, offering a place for people to cool down and play games like arcade-style basketball and a spin-the-wheel game, according to a news release.
Attendees can walk into Walmart and receive free COVID vaccines with no appointment or insurance needed.
The event will also have an outdoor video wall showing the department’s public service announcements and clips from local pediatricians and parents talking about the vaccine and its effectiveness at protecting families from COVID-19 as children return to school.
Although the vaccine is available to everyone 12 and older, vaccination rates have been lower among younger age groups, according to the Department of State Health Services. Three-quarters of Texans 65 and older are fully vaccinated, compared with 40 percent of Texans ages 18 to 34, and just 26 percent among ages 12 to 17, DSHS said in the release.
Cases and hospitalizations are increasing as data indicates the more easily spread Delta variant now accounts for most new COVID infections in the state, the department said.
“Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are now rising across all age groups. While fewer young people get very sick, they can get and spread the virus, and we are still learning about the long-term effects,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner, in the release. “Tens of millions of people have been vaccinated with no ill effects. We know these vaccines are not only safe but also very effective. Achieving higher vaccination rates is essential to eliminating the threat of COVID from our communities.”
Tarrant County is expected to see a major spike in hospitalizations from COVID-19 if trends continue as they are, according to a study from UT Southwestern Medical Center.
MedStar, the paramedic service that provides emergency medical care to Fort Worth and some of its suburbs, said first responders have seen a jump in the number of patients with COVID symptoms since June. The ambulance service and other health care providers recommend getting the vaccine, wearing a face mask, social distancing and practicing good hygiene.
MedStar also is hosting a public vaccine clinic at its headquarters, 2900 Alta Mere Drive, this Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To register, visit https://usa.quickscreen.health/medstar-vaccination#/screening
Tarrant County on Wednesday reported nine COVID-related deaths, with 54 total in the past two weeks.
Also in the past two weeks, Tarrant County has seen a 112% increase in the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients. The UT Southwestern Medical Center expects to see roughly 1,500 new COVID-19 infections in the county each day by Aug. 19, and expects the number of hospitalized patients to continue growing to possibly over 3,000 by that time.
Specifically with young people, Cook Children’s Medical Center doctors are sounding an alarm. On July 27, the hospital announced it had 13 COVID-19 pediatric patients in its care. Four of them were in intensive care. On Wednesday, the hospital was treating 24 children for COVID.