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Behind the numbers | Breaking down the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations in Greater Houston

It’s largely unvaccinated people -- at least 97%, according to the CDC -- who are filling up hospitals.
Credit: KHOU 11

HOUSTON — It’s frustrating for a lot of us that we’re back to looking at charts tracking COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, but there’s important data that explains why doctors and local leaders are sounding the alarm about the spread of the Delta variant.

The chart below shows how many positive COVID-19 cases we have in the greater Houston area as of Thursday, July 29. Obviously, the number isn’t headed in the right direction. But it’s also not as strong a barometer as it was pre-vaccines.

Credit: KHOU 11

People who are fully vaccinated can still test positive for the virus. Those are called breakthrough cases. In most cases, those folks don’t suffer the more extreme COVID-19 symptoms, so they don’t end up in the hospital. Instead, it’s largely the unvaccinated -- at least 97%, according to the CDC -- who are filling up hospitals.

Credit: KHOU 11

The above chart is generated by numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services and it shows how many COVID-19-positive people in the Greater Houston area ended up in the hospital. You can clearly see the first wave last summer, then the second one from last fall. We’re starting to see similar growth again.

Credit: KHOU 11

If you look at the above chart documenting just the past month, you can see COVID-19 hospitalizations increased from fewer than 500 at the end of June to nearly 1,500 today.

Experts said the Delta variant is driving this surge because it’s so much more contagious than previous versions. That’s why they’re encouraging more precautions, such as masking indoors, to prevent its spread.