FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) — The Tarrant County Public Health director says there are just 6 intensive care unit (ICU) beds left in the entire county, as hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to rise.

“The situation is not very good in Tarrant County right now,” Public Health Director Vinny Taneja told the Tarrant County Commissioners Tuesday.

“Numbers are just trending up since September and we’re not taking a break,” he said. “We’re at our pandemic highs and no sign of slowing down.”

The virus isn’t just affecting the elderly.

“We have a lot of young people between 15 and 44 is the big group that’s getting ill, and maybe, hopefully we won’t have any as many deaths because they’re younger, they’re healthier, but you never know,” he said.

Taneja says close to 18,000 people in the county got tested over the holiday weekend. If the current rate holds, about 20 percent will come back positive.

“Yes, the vaccine’s here,” Taneja said. “That’s very positive news, but it takes a while to immunize 2.1 million people in the county. Until we get to a reasonable number of people immunized, we have to do our part because this is not really good for our community. There’s a lot of disease.”

The state is allowing the health department to start vaccinating residents next in line on the priority list, even though not all healthcare and frontline workers have received the shots yet.

The next group, 1B, includes people are 65 years and older and anyone over 16 with an underlying health condition like cancer, chronic kidney disease, obesity, and heart conditions.

The health department is encouraging residents who fall in those categories to pre-register for their vaccine online.

“Our goal is to get every person, but right now we just urge a little patience so we can do is this in a little bit more orderly fashion,” said Taneja. “…As a community, we’ve got to work together and get these doses in arms because as you see, we’re at the brink of a real, real problem in Tarrant County.”

Taneja expects the vaccine to be widely available in late February or early March.

Until the bulk of the population gets the shots, he says everyone has to do their part to bend the curve.

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Caroline Vandergriff