News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

COVID-19 In DFW July 25-July 31: Two Health Systems Require Vaccines For Employees

Baylor Scott & White Hospital as Blue Angles plane flies over.
Tony Gutierrez
/
AP
Baylor Scott & White employees and others look on from the tops of garages, bottom, as the U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly over their hospital and by downtown Dallas, Wednesday, May 6, 2020.

Baylor Scott & White and Methodist Health System have the vaccine mandates. Local leaders are also trying to ask for flexibility regarding the governor's executive order prohibiting public entities to enforce mask orders.

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

Saturday, July 31

Tarrant County Reports 640 New Cases

Tarrant County Public Health is reporting 640 new cases, bringing the countywide total to 273,577. Of the total number, 227,886 are confirmed and 45,691 are probable.

Pop-Up Clinic At Fair Park Today

Fair Park will host a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Only the Pfizer vaccine will be available. Enter via Lot 13. Appointments aren’t required but are encouraged.

You can also make an appointment to get your COVID-19 vaccine at the DCHHS main building (2377 N Stemmons Fwy, Dallas, TX 75207) or the DCHHS Jefferson Clinic (1113 E. Jefferson Boulevard, Suite 200, Dallas, TX 75203).

Schedule an appointment at the Dallas County website.

Friday, July 30

Dallas County Judge Criticizes New Executive Order From Governor

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is blasting another executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott restricting how local officials can respond to rising coronavirus numbers.

Abbott on Thursday stripped the power of county judges to limit business capacity when COVID-19 patients exceed 15% of hospitalizations for seven days in a row. Jenkins accused the Republican of playing politics with public health.

"He's disregarded what the CDC and the scientist and the local doctors have told him to disastrous results and that's happening again now," Jenkins said.

Abbott emphasized personal responsibility in his order that also bars school districts, local governments and any entity getting public funds from requiring proof of vaccination.

Dallas County reported five deaths and 726 new cases on Friday. There have been a total of 4,203 deaths in the county. Since July 15, hospitalizations have increased from 181 to 397, a 119% increase. The number of patients in the ICU has increase from 53 to 120 over the same period.

Nonprofit Advises Renters As CDC's Eviction Moratorium Expires

The Centers for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium officially expires Saturday. When the moratorium comes to an end, landlords can evict renters with no threat of prosecution from the federal government.

Mark Melton, a Dallas-based attorney and founder of the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center, said applying for rent assistance as soon as possible can help renters work with their landlords more effectively.

“Landlords seem to be fairly willing generally, to work with tenants who are making a good faith effort to go through that process and apply and get that rent assistance money,” he said.

Melton said around 10,000 evictions have been filed in Dallas County since the beginning of 2021.

Dallas Businesses Adjust Operations As Delta Variant Spreads

Dallas Regional Chamber Vice-President Jessica Heer says the chamber follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She says vaccinated colleagues had been getting used to seeing each other in the office without masks. As of July 27, those CDC guidelines have changed.

"Now we have to wear a mask when we are moving around the office and within six feet of each other,” Heer said. “Many of our member companies are evaluating and making that adjustment."

Keith Fluellen made adjustments with his Dallas business, Fluellen Cupcakes. His employees are masked-up again. Customer chairs are back up on their tables, now that he’s shut down the dine-in portion of his shop.

“We’ve been through so much with, first, COVID, and then the riots, the curfew, freezing rain, you know bursting pipes above my store,” Fluellen said. “At this point, as a downtown business owner, you just roll with the flow.”

He said business dropped when the pandemic hit. Bouncing back took time. Deliveries began to work, thanks to services like DoorDash and Grubhub. He said those orders and the many tenants in the new apartments near his Elm Street address have “been keeping us afloat.”

Fluellen’s not sure how long he’ll be in this limbo between a pandemic pause and a pace that’s normal. Heer doesn’t know either. She said a May survey of Dallas Regional Chamber members showed 84% of members expected to be back in their buildings by September.

But with the Delta surge, she’s hearing some business leaders may be thinking twice. So another survey goes out to them in days.

Fluellen says “Until we get the variant under control and more people vaccinated, it’s just going to delay our progress.” Heer agrees.

The Chamber’s Take Care of Business campaign is designed to help employers convince reluctant employees to get jabbed.

Tarrant County Reports 689 Cases, 10 Deaths

The deaths include a woman from Arlington in her 80s, a man from White Settlement in his 70s, a man from River Oaks in his 60s, a man from unincorporated Tarrant County in his 60s, a woman from Arlington in her 60s, two women from Fort Worth in their 60s, a man from Fort Worth in his 50s, a woman from Saginaw in her 50s, and a woman from Fort Worth in her 40s. All had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 3,642 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and 260,907 people have recovered.

Thursday, July 29

Methodist Health System Mandating Vaccines For Employees

On the heels of Baylor Scott & White's mandate announced yesterday, Methodist Health System is requiring all of its 10,000 employees get the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 1.

Methodist offering a bonus as added incentive to encourage the staff to meet the goal before the deadline. They're planning to pay a $500 bonus to full-time staff and $250 to part-time employees if that happens.

“The highly contagious Delta variant is causing another spike in the number of COVID-19 infections in North Texas," senior executives said in a statement explaining their decision. "We believe the best way to keep our hospitals and communities safe is to achieve a fully vaccinated workforce.”

The hospital system already mandates employees get a seasonal flu vaccine each year. As with that inoculation, employees can apply for an exemption to the coronavirus vaccine mandate on medical or religious grounds.

Most Of North Texas Is On The CDC's List Of Places You Should Mask Up. Here's How You Can See If Your Area's Included

New recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control encourage fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors when virus spread is high or substantial.

That means 50 or more cases per 100,000 people in a week.

More than 210 counties in Texas meet that threshold, including Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant Counties.

The CDC has an online tracker you can use to find out if your community is considered an area of high or substantial spread.

The CDC offered these new recommendations to slow the spread of the more contagious Delta variant to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Unvaccinated people make up the majority of hospitalizations for coronavirus in North Texas.

Dallas County Announces 750 New Cases

There are 750 more cases, raising the total to 270,821. Of the cases reported, 666 are confirmed. So far, 497,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered at the Fair Park mega-vaccine clinic.

Seven deaths were reported today:

  • A Duncanville man in his 50s.
  • A Desoto woman in her 50s.
  • A Dallas woman in her 50s.
  • A Dallas woman in her 60s.
  • A Dallas woman in her 70s.
  • A Dallas man in his 90s who was a resident of the City of Dallas. He expired at home and had underlying high risk health conditions.
  • A Dallas woman in her 90s.

Denton County Reports 204 More Cases

An additional 204 cases increases the total to 79,563. One death was reported today of a Denton man in his 50s.

The county also reported 30 newly recovered cases of COVID-19, increasing the countywide recovery total to 75,931.

738 New Cases In Tarrant County

Another 738 cases brings the total to 272,248. The total number of deaths is 3,632 and so far 260,725 people have recovered from the virus in the area.

Local Leaders Ask Gov. Abbott For Flexibility On Mask Order

Some local leaders around the state are urging Gov. Greg Abbott to give them the flexibility to require masks in certain public spaces as the delta variant fuels a surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations statewide.

Abbott issued an executive order earlier this year prohibiting government entities from mandating masks.

In San Antonio, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Wednesday he and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff want Abbott to reconsider.

"Judge Wolff and I will be sending a letter to Gov. Abbott asking him to support our request for additional assistance to help our hospitals deal with the rise in COVID cases," Nirenberg said. "We're also requesting that he consider amending his order to allow governmental employers to require faces masks to prevent the continued spread by the highly transmissible delta variant or any other variant."

Nirenberg and Wolff also ask that public schools as well as universities and colleges be allowed to require masks.

Chip Roy Pushes Back On U.S. House Mask Mandate

Texas Congress member Chip Roy is blasting the reintroduction of a mask requirement in the U.S. House. Roy, an Austin area Republican, said Wednesday lawmakers should focus on other issues.

"We have a crisis at our border and we're playing footsie with mask mandates in the people's house," he said.

House members who do not wear masks could face fines or be denied entry to the chamber.

Wednesday, July 28

Baylor Scott & White Issues Vaccine Mandate For Employees

The largest nonprofit hospital system in Texas will require its 40,000 employees to get a coronavirus vaccine. Baylor Scott & White issued a statement today saying the decision is due to surges in the delta variant raising health risks statewide, especially with flu season on the horizon.

The Delta variant is the most contagious and dangerous strain we have seen to date, leading to exponentially increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization," the company said. "The overwhelming majority of these cases are among the unvaccinated."

The policy requires workers be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1 — unless granted an exemption. It extends to all providers, plus, volunteers, students, vendors and workers on contract.

The Dallas Morning News reports at least the 70 health providers have issued a vaccine mandate since the Houston Methodist system announced its policy four months ago, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. Those service providers include the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; Mass General Brigham in Boston; University of California Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Read more from The Dallas Morning News.

Dallas County Reports 989 New Cases

Another 989 cases raises the total to 270,155. Of the cases reported, 747 have been confirmed. A total of 4,191 Dallas County residents have died due to the virus.

Five deaths were reported today, including a Dallas teen:

  • A Dallas woman in her teens.
  • A Garland man in his 20s.
  • A Dallas woman in her 50s
  • A Sunnyvale man in his 50s.
  • A woman in her 60s.

442 Additional Cases In Tarrant County

An additional 442 cases in the area brings the total to 271,510. There have been 3,630 deaths and 260,592 people who have recovered from the virus in the area.

Tarrant County Public Health has indicated that the community spread level is high.

Denton County Announces 231 New Cases

There are 231 more cases in the county, of which 228 are active. That brings the total to 79,359. The county also reported 29 newly recovered cases, increasing the countywide recovery total to 75,902.

State Will Award $10 Million To Local Organizations Promoting Vaccines

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is launching the Texas Vaccine Outreach and Education Grant program. It will provide grants of $50,000 - $150,000 to a wide range of groups engaged in vaccine education with the goal of increasing the number of fully vaccinated Texans and slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

DSHS is encouraging educational agencies, faith-based organizations, government entities, community coalitions, associations and nonprofit groups to apply for the federal funds. They will be awarded for projects lasting from six to nine months.

Texas organizations can submit proposals beginning today with award notifications expected to begin around the end of August. DSHS says Priority will be given to applicants that focus on reaching rural communities, communities of color and Texans with disabilities. Learn more about the program, eligibility and how to apply at https://health.tamu.edu/vaccinegrant.html.

“Community-based organizations have played a critical role in ensuring people across Texas have access to COVID-19 vaccines, and they have innovative ideas about how to engage the communities they work with,” said Imelda Garcia of DSHS. “These grants will give them the resources to expand their efforts to serve hard-to-reach communities that have been seriously affected by the pandemic.”

The state agency is partnering with Texas A&M University Health Science Center to administer the grant program.

Dallas & Fort Worth Schools Districts Launch Initiatives To Expand High Speed Internet Access

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted gaps in internet access for some North Texas families, as students navigate remote learning.

The Dallas and Fort Worth school districts have both recently launched initiatives to get reliable internet access to students and families.

While some progress has been made in expanding broadband, advocates say the barriers to access are complex. Jennifer Harrison is with Connected Nation Texas, a nonprofit working to improve broadband internet coverage.

Harrison says one of the most common reasons families don’t have broadband is because it’s unaffordable.

“It's not a yes or no question, it's not binary, do you have internet or not?" Harrison said. "It’s if you don't, then why, and then discovering what that reason is, so that we can really be solving the right problem.”

The City of Dallas and school district are seeking feedback from parents on their broadband expansion plan. Read more about their proposal from KERA's Bill Zeeble.

Texas Nurses Support New CDC Mask Guidance, But Aren't Calling For A Mandate

The head of the Texas Nurses Association (TNA) supports the latest guidance on masking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the delta variant continues to drive COVID-19 infections.

The CDC now recommends vaccinated people wear masks indoors in public if they live in areas with significant or high spread. Cindy Zolnierek, CEO TNA, says she still wears a mask around others.

"We're learning more about how the virus may or may not be transmitted among vaccinated individuals. So as a precautionary step, I would support wearing masks — Not mandates!" Zolnierek said. "I'm not saying it [should be] mandated, but I'm saying it's a good idea."

While Zolnierek is not calling for a mask mandate, she says her group does support requiring all health care workers get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Delta Variant Up To 90% Of Amarillo Cases

Amarillo Public Health Director Casie Stoughton updated city council members Tuesday about the coronavirus surge in the area. She said the delta variant is one of four variants identified in the area.

"I don't have specific numbers of the variants, however the lab did tell me that about five weeks ago the delta variant constituted about 15% of all of the variants that they tested. Three weeks ago, about 52%, and two weeks ago almost 90%," she said.

While Amarillo had one of the highest vaccination rates in the state during the initial rollout of the shots, it now lags behind other cities. About 38% of the area's eligible population is fully vaccinated. That's compared with more than 52% of Texans 12 and older statewide.

Tuesday, July 27

Texas Nursing Groups Push For Mandatory Vaccinations Of Health Care Workers

The Texas Nursing Association and eight other Texas nursing groups have signed a statement supporting COVID-19 vaccine requirements for health care workers.

Nearly 60 organizations across the country have signed onto the agreement so far.

Both Parkland and Baylor Scott and White health systems yesterday told the Dallas Morning News they're having internal discussions and evaluating policies to see if a mandate's needed.

The move comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the U-S are rising, and could reach levels that haven’t been seen since earlier surges of the pandemic.

Pandemic Shows Gaps In Internet Access Across North Texas

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted gaps in internet access for some North Texas families, as students navigate remote learning.

While some progress has been made in expanding broadband, advocates say the barriers to access are complex. Jennifer Harrison is with Connected Nation Texas, a nonprofit working to improve broadband internet coverage.

“It's not a yes or no question, it's not binary, do you have, you know, internet or not? It’s if you don't, then why, and then discovering what that reason is, so that we can really be solving the right problem.”

Harrison says one of the most common reasons families don’t have broadband is because it’s unaffordable.

The Dallas and Fort Worth school districts have both recently launched initiatives to get reliable internet access to students and families.

Monday, July 26

State Health Officials Encourage Texans To Get Vaccinated

The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is encouraging Texans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as hospitalizations exceed 4,000 for the first time since March.

DSHS Commissioner Doctor John Hellerstedt warns the current surge could be devastating because millions of Texans are still not vaccinated with more contagious variants spreading statewide.

“Yet, there is good news — very good news in fact. Unlike previous surges we have safe, powerfully effective vaccines, and plenty of them,” he said.

More than 12.5 million people in Texas are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That accounts for 52% of the state population that is eligible for the shots.

Dallas County Reports 765 New Cases

An additional 765 cases raises the total to 268,112. Of the cases reported today, 676 are confirmed. Today’s totals include cases from Friday.

Four deaths were reported today:

  • A Richardson man in his 50s.
  • A Dallas man in his 50s.
  • A Richardson man in his 70s.
  • A Sunnyvale man in his 90s.

534 New Cases In Tarrant County

Another 534 cases brings the total to 270,663. There have been 3,619 deaths and 260,292 people who have recovered from the virus in the area.

Denton County Announces 132 Additional Cases

There are 132 new cases, raising the total to 78,924. There have been 71 newly-recovered cases in the county, bringing the total to 75,823.

COVID Hospitalizations And Cases Continue To Surge

COVID-19 hospitalizations surpassed 4,000 for the first time since March.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports 4,320 COVID patients are being treated in Texas hospitals as of July 24. That's triple the amount of hospitalizations in the last month.

The test positive rate also hit a grim milestone crossing the 10% threshold. Texas hasn't seen that rate since February. It was as low as 2.8% in mid-June.

Health officials attribute the highly contagious Delta variant for the surge in new infections and hospitalizations.

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

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.