RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The BA.5 COVID variant is quickly spreading across the U.S. and local doctors said it is having an impact on our hospitals.

“Right now we’re in this surge. It’s not getting better yet it’s actually getting worse, if you’re out and about or getting together you’re going to be exposed,” said Dr. James Castillo, Cameron County Health Authority.

Castillo said it’s no surprise the BA.5 variant has reached the Rio Grande Valley. “It’s more contagious, it’s able to cause reinfections, it bypasses the vaccine, so pretty much it’s able to spread more,” he added. Castillo explained hospitalizations are rising in the county with new cases up 20%. Although we are seeing an increase he said it is not like previous surges. 

“Surge of overwhelming hospitalizations, people on ventilators, people on oxygen, or deaths. The number of deaths is going up I’m not saying people are not getting put in the hospital because of this but it’s dramatically different than past waves,” said Castillo.

In Hidalgo County, the surge in hospitalizations is painting another picture. 

“Approximately 6 weeks ago only 12 COVID patients in the hospital, now we’re around 140 depending on what day you check. From those 140 we typically have a dozen or so in the intensive care units,” said Dr. Ivan Melendez, Hidalgo County Health Authority.

One local ICU doctor said they have noticed a trend between those coming in with COVID who are vaccinated and those who are not. 

“Is the subvariant cutting through old barriers including vaccination or is it because we are having more people who are vaccinated in the community? I’m not sure, but there are patients who have vaccines and even boosters who are contracting COVID,” said Dr. Jamil Madi, the ICU Medical Director and Chief of Critical Care at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen.

Doctors recommend mask wearing in indoor places and being up to date with the vaccine and booster shots. They add while it doesn’t offer large protection against getting infected it can prevent hospitalization and severe symptoms.