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COVID-19 In DFW Mar. 21-Mar. 27: Vaccine Eligibility Widens, And At Least 23% Of Texans Got One Dose

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Frank Augstein/AP
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

Case counts also continue to fall in North Texas, and Dallas moved out of the most restrictive red tier.

For the latest on the pandemic in North Texas, visit KERA News' COVID-19 Live Updates page.

Saturday, March 27

Judge Allows Austin To Continue Requiring Masks

A Texas judge is allowing the City of Austin to continue to require face coverings in local businesses weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott ended a statewide mask mandate and other COVID-19 safety measures.

The ruling Friday by state District Judge Lora Livingston is at least a temporary victory for local leaders in the liberal state capital who have repeatedly clashed with Abbott over his handling of the pandemic.

Face coverings have only ever been loosely enforced in Texas, which earlier this month became the biggest state to drop COVID-19 restrictions.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to appeal the ruling.

The roughly 3,400 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Texas is the lowest number since October. On Monday, Texas will begin making all adults eligible for coronavirus vaccinations.

Appeals Court Panel Rejects Texas Inmates' COVID-19 Lawsuit

A federal appeals court Friday struck down a lawsuit brought by elderly inmates of a Texas prison who alleged the state did not implement adequate measures to shield them from COVID-19.

Two male inmates of the Wallace Pack Unit near Houston filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that the conditions there violated their constitutional rights by endangering their health and safety.

A federal judge in Houston had agreed and ordered the state to equip inmates with protective equipment. Last June, the appeals court panel overturned the order, saying the state was in substantial compliance. The three-judge appeals court panel on Friday ruled in favor of the state.

Brandon Duke, one of the inmates’ attorneys, said the decision was disappointing, “but we do agree with the court that the suit, as stated in the opinion, ‘played a role in motivating the prison officials into action and saved countless lives.’ That was the ultimate goal of the case.”

It’s unclear whether further appeals are planned.

Dallas County Reports 312 Cases, 16 Deaths

Dallas County health officials on Saturday reported 312 additional cases of COVID-19, as well as 16 deaths.

Officials report an outbreak of over 50 cases among high school students who attended a dance and dinner on March 13. Over the past 30 days, there have been 1,351 cases in school-aged children and staff from more than 400 schools across Dallas County. There have been 13 outbreaks in shared housing facilities, such as group homes, halfway homes and homeless shelters.

Tarrant County on Saturday reported 172 new cases and seven additional deaths.

Friday, March 26

Dallas County Reports 302 Cases, 15 Deaths

The 15 deaths give Dallas County a total of 3,469. The deaths included people who ranged in age from their 40s to their 90s, and all but one person had underlying high-risk health conditions.

Five more cases of the B.1.1.7 variant from the United Kingdom were diagnosed in the county. A total of 19 cases of that variant, along with two cases of a variant from California and one case of the variant that originated from South Africa have been found in Dallas County.

Tarrant County Reports 100 Cases, 18 Deaths

Of the 18 deaths, five were from February and 13 were from March. There are a total of 3,258 deaths in Tarrant County.

Denton County Reports 97 Cases

Of the 97 cases reported, 88 are active cases. There are a total of 71,484 cases and 462 deaths in Denton County.

23% of Texans Have Gotten At Least One Dose Of The Vaccine, According To The CDC

According to a USA Today story, 23% of Texans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 12% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Compared to other states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., that percentage of people who have received at least one dose is in the lower half of the country. Only Tennessee (22%), Georgia (21%), Alabama (21%), and Puerto Rico (19%) have lower percentages of people receiving a single dose, while Utah, Idaho, Indiana, the District of Columbia, and Mississippi all have 23% of their residents vaccinated.

New Mexico has the highest percentage of its residents vaccinated, at 34%. Other states with large populations, such as New York and California, are also ahead of Texas, at 28% and 27%, respectively.

According to the same data, Texas has used 71% of the vaccines it has received, placing it in the middle of the pack compared to other states. Wisconsin (88%) and New Mexico (87%) lead the nation, while states with large populations, such as California (77%) and New York (75%) are just ahead of Texas.

Texas House Passes Bill That May Allow Restaurants To Serve Alcohol To-Go

Restaurants in Texas could get to continue alcohol-to-go sales permanently, under a bill passed by the Texas House on Thursday.

Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an emergency waiver to help the struggling industry during the pandemic offer alcoholic beverages for pickup and delivery.

State Representative Charlie Geren, a Fort Worth Republican, is House Bill 10-24’s sponsor.

“And, just to be clear, alcohol can only be purchased with food orders,” he said.

The bill now heads to the state Senate.

Governor Says Older Texans Still Get Priority For Vaccines

While all Texas adults will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines starting Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott says older Texans will still get priority for the shots.

“So, for the time being, anybody who is 80 years of age and older, you will be able to get to the front of any line providing vaccines in any part of the state of Texas," he said. "All you need is an identification card, showing that you are in fact 80 years of age and older. And you don’t even need to make an appointment.”

The governor was speaking Thursday in McAllen to promote the "Save Our Seniors" initiative, a statewide program aimed at vaccinating Texans who are at least 75 years old or homebound. To date, 90 of the state's counties have participated in the effort. Nearly 24,000 people have been vaccinated through the program.

Economic Outlook Improving In The State

Economic conditions in Texas are improving, according to a business outlook survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Jesus Cañas is a senior business economist with the Dallas Fed. He said employment numbers dropped during last month's winter storm, but have picked back up the following weeks.

"We predict higher than expected employment growth in March and April, and our 2021 Texas employment forecast remains unaffected at 6.5 percent growth by the end of the year," he said.

Cañas said the state's housing market remains strong, with strong levels of home sales and building permits.

Texas Unemployment Claims Have Risen

New unemployment claims nationwide have fallen to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Labor Department. But Texas saw an uptick in people seeking benefits.

Nearly 80,400 people in Texas filed initial unemployment claims last week. That's an almost 9% increase from the week before, when more than 73,000 people in the state applied for jobless benefits for the first time. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, more than 1.1 million Texans have received an unemployment payment in the last 10 days.

Thursday, March 25

Dallas County Reports 296 New Cases

Another 296 cases brings the total to 251,360. A total of 20 deaths were reported today, ranging from people in their 30s to 90s.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said death numbers continue to remain high, but that “there’s much cause for optimism.”

74 New Cases In Denton County

There have been 74 additional cases in the area, raising the total to 71,388. There have been 362 newly-recovered cases of COVID-19, increasing the countywide recovery total to 63,445.

In a correction to the March 24 press release, the county says a woman over 80 who reportedly died lives at Lake Village Nursing Home in Lewisville. The previous statement said she lived at Flower Mound Assisted Living.

Tarrant County Reports 142 Additional Cases

An additional 142 cases in the area brings the total to 249,821. There have been 3,240 deaths and 240,498 people who have recovered from the virus in the area.

Poll Shows White Republicans Most Hesitant To Get COVID-19 Vaccine

A recent poll found White Republicans most hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey, 61% of white Republicans in Texas who responded — and 59% of all Republicans regardless of race — said they're reluctant to get the vaccine or would refuse it outright.

That's compared to 25% of Texas Democrats who said the same.

Scientists and doctors stress that vaccines are safe and effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says no one has died from the COVID vaccines. Some people may experience short-term side effects, but typically those subside quickly.

Southwest Airlines To Return Some Pre-Pandemic Procedures

Southwest Airlines is returning to some of its pre-pandemic procedures for flying.

The Dallas Morning News reports the Dallas-based carrier will once again board its planes in groups of 30 instead of 10.

Also, after handing out only water for months, Southwest is restoring limited on-board beverage options — soda, but no alcohol.

Wednesday, March 24

COVID-19 Top Cause of Death in Dallas County Says Data Firm

Dallas County’s number one cause of death in the past year was COVID-19, according to the Parkland Hospital-affiliated Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation.

COVID-19 reached this grim status on Sunday, a year and two days after the first known death from the virus in the county.

PCCI said the virus killed 3,763 people as of March 21. The number includes both confirmed and probable cases, which accounts for the disparity with Dallas County’s official count. In a press release sent on Monday, March 22, the county said 3,394 people had died from COVID-19 during the pandemic.

PCCI estimates the virus killed more people than heart disease (3,668), cancer (3,356), and strokes (1,015) over the same period of March 19, 2020 to March 21, 2021.

The data firm said COVID-19 deaths in the county more than doubled in the wake of holiday gatherings at the end of December.

Tarrant County Reports 261 New Cases, 5 Additional Deaths

There are five additional COVID-19 deaths in Tarrant County today, increasing the cumulative, countywide total to 3,231. The deceased ranged in age from their 50s to their 80s. All had underlying health conditions.

County Health officials are also reporting 261 new case today bringing the cumulative total to 249,679.

115 New Cases, 9 More Deaths In Denton County

The nine deaths Denton County is reporting today brings the total number of COVID-related deaths countywide to 462 deaths. The individuals ranged in age from their 40s to 80s.

The county also are reporting 115 new cases today of which 89 are active cases. This increases the cumulative, countywide total to 71,314 cases.

Dallas County Changes COVID-19 Risk Level From Red To Orange

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the numbers are trending in the right direction. He said on Tuesday night, the county moved the COVID-19 risk level from red to orange.

Another 270 cases in the area raises the total to 251,214. There have been 21 deaths reported today, bringing the total deaths to 3,434.

Walk-In Vaccine Clinic In Fort Worth Today

The City of Fort Worth and MedStar are holding a community vaccine clinic today. No appointment or registration is necessary, and up to 1,000 vaccines will be available.

The clinic is open from 8 a.m.-5p.m. today at the Handley Meadowbrook Community Center in Fort Worth.

Anyone in the following groups is eligible:

  • Direct healthcare workers
  • Residents of long-term care facilities
  • People 50 years of age and above - OR -
  • People 18 years of age and above with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • School and childcare personnel

Voting Rights Groups Site Pandemic In Request For Virtual Hearings On New State Voting Laws

Voting rights groups in Texas are asking state lawmakers to consider the pandemic and accommodate remote public input as they consider sweeping voting legislation.

The groups sent a letter to state lawmakers ahead of a hearing Thursday for one of two big voting bills in the Texas legislature.

Among other things, House Bill 6 sets more restrictions for the state’s vote by mail program. Voting rights groups say it’s essential for lawmakers to hear from people who would be directly affected by the legislation – including voters with disabilities, voters of color and older voters.

Gary Bledsoe with the NAACP says not allowing virtual input will force vulnerable people to physically gather in these hearings where mask-wearing is not enforced.

"I think that those things are really intimidating. So, I think that the rules have been designed in a way to limit public input by and large," Bledsoe said.

Lawmakers are also expected to consider Senate Bill 7 in the coming days, which is another sweeping bill that sets even more limits on voting by mail in Texas.

Tuesday, March 23

Dallas County Reports 228 Cases, 19 Deaths

The 19 deaths give Dallas County a total of 3,413. The deaths reported Tuesday include people who ranged in age from their 50s to their 90s, and all had underlying high-risk health conditions.

Two cases of the variant B.1.429 were reported in Dallas County. This variant first emerged in California and is the third different COVID-19 variant that has been found in the county.

Tarrant County Reports 268 Cases, Four Deaths

The deaths include a man from Fort Worth in his 80s, a man from Fort Worth in his 70s, a man from White Settlement in his 70s, and a man from Fort Worth in his 40s. All but one had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 3,226 confirmed deaths and 239,433 people have recovered.

Denton County Reports 129 Cases

Of the 129 cases reported Tuesday, 117 are active cases. Denton County also reported 360 newly recovered cases, increasing that number to 62,750. There are 453 total deaths in the county.

Fort Worth ISD, Tarrant Area Food Bank To Host “Mega Mobile Market” Food Drive Event

Fort Worth ISD and Tarrant Area Food Bank will continue its food distribution event for families at Herman Clark Stadium from Friday, March 26 through May 21.

Food will be distributed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.

There will be no distribution on Good Friday, April 2. To replace that date, a special event will be held on March 29.

The Tarrant Area Food Bank has provided meals to families since Sept. 4 through the Mega Mobile Market, which has served around 3,000 families per week.

Herman Clark Stadium is located at 5201 C.A. Roberson Blvd. in Fort Worth.

Vaccines Available For People 16 And Older Starting Monday

In Texas, people who are 16 and older will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination starting Monday.

Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja talked to county commissioners earlier Tuesday about the state’s decision to expand eligibility.

“They've heard feedback from us and they understand that all this restriction is sort of getting in the way," Taneja said. "So that's great news, so we'll work with them to kind of figure out the logistics and how to get it all going.”

Questions remain about how local entities will handle the logistics of vaccinating more people. Taneja said there are still many details to iron out. He said Tarrant County will continue to use its county registration system to get people signed up for vaccine appointments.

Tarrant County Partners With UNT Health Science Center To Give Vaccines To People Who Have Concerns About Them

Tarrant County Public Health has partnered with the University of North Texas Health Science Center to help administer vaccinations to people who have concerns about getting a COVID-19 shot.

Dr. Sylvia Trent-Adams is with the UNT Health Science Center.

"We've looked at all the approaches to inform and support the community and getting the information, but also more importantly, to understand where all the vaccine sites are going to be launched in advance, help them to navigate the registration site itself and also provide resources to those individuals who may not have access to the internet smartphones or, um, have transportation to be able to get to those locations when they do register," Trent-Adams said.

The first registration site was launched Tuesday in the Stop Six neighborhood in Fort Worth.

Trent-Adams said the county is looking to set up locations in the Como neighborhood as well as Saginaw, Northern Keller and Forest Hill. She said the location of the future registration sites will be determined based on community need.

Research Shows Drop In Routine Vaccinations For Adolescents, Teens As COVID Vaccines Remain Priority

Immunization rates among children and young adults in the U.S. dropped around 86% during fall 2020, according to a recent analysis.

The low immunization rates mean students returning to classes this year are vulnerable to preventable diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends no vaccines be given to students within two weeks before or after the COVID-19 vaccine.

Monday, March 22

Dallas County Reports 484 Cases, 10 Deaths

The 10 deaths give Dallas County a total of 3,394. The deaths reported Monday included people who ranged in age from their 40s to their 80s, and all but three had underlying high-risk health conditions.

An outbreak of 41 cases has been reported among high school students who attended a dance and dinner on March 13th. An additional nine COVID-19 cases among students and coaches have been reported associated with outbreaks for two high school basketball teams.

Tarrant County Reports 143 Cases, 13 Deaths

The deaths include a woman from Fort Worth in her 80s, a man from Bedford in his 80s, a woman from Arlington in her 80s, two men from Fort Worth in their 70s, a woman from Bedford in her 70s, a woman from Arlington in her 70s, two women from Arlington in their 60s, a man from Grapevine in his 60s, a man from Fort Worth in his 50s, a man from Fort Worth in his 40s, and a man from Watauga in his 30s. All had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 3,222 confirmed deaths and 239,006 people have recovered.

Denton County Reports 186 Cases

Of the 186 cases reported by the county on Monday, 155 are active cases. Denton County also reported 818 newly recovered cases, bringing that total to 62,390.

Mobile Vaccine Operation Launched For Underserved Populations

Baylor Scott and White Health has launched a mobile operation to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for residents in underserved populations. Over the weekend, some 200 people showed up for pre-scheduled appointments at Lee Penn Park in Waxahachie.

Healthcare workers and volunteers reached out to area residents who hadn't been vaccinated.

Niki Shah is vice president of community health for Baylor Scott & White.

"One of the things that we do is we look at where the hubs are," Shah said. "We look at the data to see what is the percentage of people that are being vaccinated. What are their backgrounds? What are their demographics are? Where are they from? And then, where we see gaps in some of that, we really go in and figure out how do we help that particular community."

Shah said they also look at income, education and other variables to identify areas around the state with higher rates of people who don't want to get the vaccine or aren't able to because of a lack of transportation or technology.

Baylor officials said they plan to take their mobile vaccination program to other North Texas communities.

900K First Doses of Vaccine Arrive In Texas This Week

More than 685,000 doses are heading to about 480 providers in 183 counties. The remaining first doses are going to pharmacies and federally-qualified health centers. Texas also ordered nearly 675,000 second doses for people who have already gotten their first shot.

Individuals who are currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in the state include front line health care workers, long-term care residents, people who are at least 50 years old, and those with chronic health conditions.

Gov. Abbott Blasts Biden Administration For Conditions In Detention Facilities

Gov. Greg Abbott continues to hammer the Biden administration over conditions at federally-run immigrant detention facilities in Texas. The Republican leader said there are COVID-19 outbreaks at sites in Carrizo Springs and Midland.

"There are adults who work in those facilities," he said. "The information I have, which is still unclear, and we expect the Biden administration to let me know today, but my understanding is that the adults who work in those facilities they leave and they go stay at hotels in the local region, like in Midland, Texas, or in Carrizo Springs."

Abbott was speaking at a news conference on Monday in a Fort Worth suburb following a small business roundtable.

The two presidents preceding Biden, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Barack Obama, also faced an influx of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border while in office.

Read More: A Timeline Of COVID-19's Spread In North Texas

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