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COVID-19 In DFW Aug. 1-Aug. 7: Many Counties Raise Risk Level For Virus Threat

Nurse administering vaccine to boy in parking lot.
Mary Altaffer
/
AP
Registered Nurse Jennifer Reyes inoculates Andres Clara, 12, with the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Mount Sinai South Nassau Vaxmobile parked at the De La Salle School, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Freeport, N.Y. The De La Salle School partnered with the Vaxmobile Friday to help Long Island students 12 and over receive the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as part of Mount Sinai South Nassau's mobile vaccination program.

Dallas County, along with Harris, Travis, and Bexar counties have all raised their threat level to its highest point as cases and hospitalizations surge across the state.

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

Saturday, Aug. 7

Tarrant County Reports 816 New Cases

Tarrant County has now seen 278,749 total cases of COVID-19. Officials also report 262,504 people have recovered.

Dallas County Hosts Weekend Vaccine Clinics

Officials with Dallas County Health and Human Services will offer COVID-19 vaccines at numerous sites today. Visitors can register online before getting a shot.

Friday, Aug. 6

Dallas County Reports 830 Cases, Four Deaths

The four deaths give Dallas County a total of 4,224. The deaths reported Friday were of people who ranged in age from their 40s to their 70s and all had underlying health conditions.

The seven-day average of positive cases was 806 for the week ending July 31, a rate of 30.6 new cases daily per 100,000 residents.

Tarrant County Reports 929 Cases, Two Deaths

The deaths include a man from Euless in his 70s, and a man from Fort Worth in his 20s. Both had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 3,671 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and people 262,239 have recovered.

Vaccines For Kids Could Be Available Soon

A top pediatrician in Texas says COVID-19 vaccines will soon be available for young kids. Doctor Jim Versalovic is Pathologist-in-Chief for Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. The facility is taking part in Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials for children 5 to 11 years old.

"These trials are moving rapidly along," Versalovic said. "We're committed to getting vaccines to children under 12 sometime in the fall, during the first half of the school year."

Versalovic says getting vaccines approved for children under five is expected by late this year or early 2022. He was speaking Thursday to public radio's Texas Standard.

Texas COVID Cases Are Surging At An 'Astonishing Rate.' Here’s What You Need To Know.

Officials at the state health department are concerned about the exponential growth in hospitalizations due to coronavirus over the past month. More than 7,600 people are currently in the hospital with coronavirus in Texas.

Hospitalizations due to coronavirus in North Texas have increased 292% over the past month, according to data from UT-Southwestern Medical Center. Chief State Epidemiologist Jennifer Shuford said she and others at the Texas Department of State Health Services are concerned.

“We've been living this pandemic now for a year and a half,” Shuford said. “We thought we had seen the worst of it with those first two pandemic waves that we experienced. This third wave that we're having right now in Texas is showing a very steep increase in cases and hospitalizations, as great or even steeper than what we were seeing with those first two waves.”

KERA health reporter Elena Rivera asked Shuford what are the most important things the public needs to know about the current coronavirus surge.

Get a breakdown here.

Some Of State's Largest Counties Raise COVID Threat Level

As the delta variant continues spreading across Texas, several of the state’s largest counties — including Dallas — have now gone back to increasing their COVID-19 threat level to the highest stage.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo says her county is at level red.

"This level signifies severe and uncontrolled spread in Harris County. That means outbreaks are present and worsening, and our public health capacity is strained or exceeded.”

Travis County also went to its highest threat level Thursday. Bexar and Dallas Counties made similar moves earlier this week.

Cook Children's COVID Report

Cook Children's reports that 23 patients have COVID-19, and the seven-day rolling positive case rate is 12.3%.

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Thursday, Aug. 5

Dallas County Reports 1,311 New Cases, 4 Deaths

Another 1,311 cases raises the total to 276,079. Of the cases reported, 1,179 are confirmed. Four deaths have been reported today, including:

  • A Seagoville man in his 40s.
  • A Mesquite man in his 50s.
  • An Irving woman in her 60s.
  • A Dallas woman in her 70s at a long-term care facility.

“Vaccination is imperative to defeat COVID before it breaks out of the protections afforded by the vaccine, and lengthens the pandemic unnecessarily exposing all of us, including millions of vaccinated Americans, to a new heightened risk,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

634 More Cases In Tarrant County

An additional 634 cases brings the total to 277,004. There have been 3,669 deaths and 261,968 people who have recovered from the virus so far.

Denton County Announces 167 Additional Cases

There have been 167 more cases, raising the total to 80,500. The county has also reported 36 newly recovered cases, increasing the countywide recovery total to 76,175.

MedStar To Host Mobile Vaccine Clinic

The healthcare organization plans to host a mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

The event will take place on Friday, August 6 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

People 12 years of age and older are eligible. Parents must accompany minors and show proof of age to receive a vaccine. Those who are insured and uninsured are welcome to the event.

You can register here.

Gov. Abbott Says He Won’t Enforce COVID Mandates Amid Surge Of Cases

Gov. Abbott is doubling down on his stance against government mandates to stem the spread of COVID-19.

At a convention in Dallas yesterday, Abbott said Texans should exercise personal responsibility.

“The surest way to end the pandemic is for everyone who wants one to make sure to get the vaccine. That said, going forward, in Texas, there will not be any government-imposed shutdowns or mask mandates.”

Abbott's comments followed criticism from President Biden a day earlier of Republican Governors banning mask mandates — even as the delta variant continues to fuel new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Wednesday, Aug. 4

Cook Children’s Issues Employee Vaccine Mandate

Now that Houston Methodist Hospital has won a lawsuit over its worker coronavirus vaccine requirement, more and more hospitals across Texas — and around the country — have begun to set their own mandates. In the past week alone, hospitals in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas have followed Methodist’s lead.

Cook Children’s Health Care System announced today it is instituting a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. The hospital system said every employee, physician, provider, credentialed staff, student, volunteer, contractor and on-site vendor will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by noon on Sept. 27.

In an email to more than 8,000 Cook Children’s employees, President and CEO Rick W. Merrill said the decision to the increasing rates of COVID-19 in Tarrant County.

“The delta variant is very contagious and many of our patients are vulnerable to COVID-19 because they can’t get vaccinated at this time,” Merrill said. “I personally received the vaccine in December, as did more than 95% of our physicians and two thirds of our employees. Given how close we are to critically-ill children, we know this is the right decision for our system and ultimately our patients.”

The number of COVID-19 cases among patients at Cook Children’s has increased dramatically over the past few weeks. There are currently 24 children being treated at Cook Children’s Medical Center for COVID-19. The rate of positive cases seen across the health care system over the past week is now 11.3%. On June 2, that rate was 1%.

Read more about Houston Methodist Hospital's lawsuit and how hospitals around the country are issuing mandates from Houston Public Media.

Dallas County COVID Risk Level Moves To Red As Hospitalizations Continue To Increase Across North Texas

Dallas County officials have moved the area's COVID Risk Level to Red.

They site a 189% increase in Texas cases in the past 14 days with hospitalizations up 94%. In North Texas, hospitalizations are up 321% since June 30 — going from 368 patients to 1,550.

The county reported 893 new cases today and five more deaths. There has been a total of 274,900 cases countywide including 4,216 deaths.

Tarrant County reported 876 new cases today. That brings their countywide total to 276,370 including 3,664 deaths.

There are nearly 400 new cases in Collin County. There's been a total of 79,950 cases there and 866 deaths.

Health officials say there are 173 new cases of COVID-19 in Denton County, of which 167 are active. Denton County's had 663 residents with COVID-19 die out of 80,333 total cases countywide.

State Hate Officials Worried About Increasing Hospitalizations

Officials at the state health department are concerned about the exponential growth in hospitalizations due to coronavirus over the past month. More than 7,300 people are currently in the hospital with the virus in Texas.

Chief State Epidemiologist Jennifer Shuford says her agency is working to keep Texans informed about everything from variants to new CDC guidelines.

"Whatever data we're showing, or whatever recommendations we are making is true as of this second in time. Because we know that we're just getting new information by the minute, and that does change the guidance that we give," she said.

Shuford, like other experts, says the best way to avoid getting the virus is to be fully vaccinated, practice social distancing and wear a mask.

She says she and her team will be monitoring cases heading into the fall as children head back to school and flu season starts up.

Telehealth Options Are Lowering Demands At ERs

increased use of telehealth services amid the pandemic has diverted people from emergency rooms and urgent care centers. That's according to a new survey by the Bipartisan Policy Center and Social Sciences Research Solutions (SSRS).

"Overall telehealth visits are much more common among those 65 or older, in fact they were about twice as likely to have a telehealth visit, compared to those who are under 30," Jazmyne Sutton, associate research director at SSRS, said during a virtual event today. "Overall about one third of US adults had a telehealth visit in the past year for themselves, or a dependent."

The survey of more than 1,700 American adults looked at the quality of telehealth care and barriers to access.

Rural residents and older adults reported more technological issues, and trouble accessing high-speed internet for appointments.

Tuesday, Aug. 3

Dallas County Reports A Three-Day Total of 2,132 Cases

The 2,132 cases were totals from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Dallas County also reported five deaths for a cumulative total of 4,211. The deaths were of people who ranged in age from their 60s to their 90s, and all but one had underlying health conditions.

According to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, hospitalizations have risen 375% in the past month.

Tarrant County Reports 508 Cases, One Death

The death was a man from Fort Worth in his 50s who had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 3,655 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and people 261,506 have recovered.

Denton County Reports 180 Cases, Two Deaths

The two deaths reported were a man in his 50s and a man in his 70s. Denton County has a total of 633 deaths.

Vaccinations On The Rise In Texas

Texas is starting to see a sharp increase in new COVID-19 vaccinations, and some health experts say it could be attributed to more people listening to health care providers or personally seeing new infections firsthand.

​“We also know that schools are preparing to open for full in-person class instruction, and so we know that all these preventative strategies are really…they’re hearing that call to action because we want our kids to get back into schools, and get back into schools safely,” said Dr. Janeana White, who is with Harris County's Health Department.

Texas is now on pace to reach 15 million people vaccinated with at least one dose this week.

Tarrant County Offering Free COVID-19 Testing

The free COVID-19 testing sites will operate on a rotating schedule throughout Tarrant County.

Tarrant County is currently at the High Community Spread Level, meaning, that more than 100 cases per 100,000 have been found in the past seven days.

Testing sites and times are as follows:

Tuesday
8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Southwest Public Health Center
6551 Granbury Road, Suite 110
Fort Worth, Texas 76133

1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Bagsby – Williams Public Health Center
3212 Miller Avenue
Fort Worth, Texas 76105

Wednesday
8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Northwest Public Health Center
3800 Adam Grubb Road
Lake Worth, Texas 76135-3506

Thursday
8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Southeast Subcourthouse Arlington
700 E Abram Street
Arlington, Texas 76010

Friday
8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Mansfield Subcourthouse
1100 E. Broad Street, Ste 100
Mansfield, TX 76063

District 4 Council Member Wants More Equal Access To Healthcare For Her Constituents

Dallas city council is back to its weekly meeting schedule Wednesday after a month-long summer break.

Council member Carolyn King Arnold represents District 4, which includes Southern Oak Cliff and East Oak Cliff. Arnold is worried about the rate in which the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is spreading. And she wants her constituents to have equal access to health facilities.

"Are you going to commit to some health care, community care facilities?" Arnold said. "Because in our zip codes you already know and COVID has exposed to. we have a need for healthcare and equity in healthcare."

Arnold's goal is for residents in her district to not have to drive more than 15 minutes to a hospital for a health emergency.

More Hospital Systems Are Requiring Employees To Get Vaccinated

The list of Texas hospital systems requiring employees get the shot grew quickly in July as the latest surge in COVID hospitalizations ramped up. The state's largest non-profit medical provider, Baylor Scott & White Health, and Methodist Health System — both serving north Texas — have given workers until Oct. 1.

Baptist Health System announced the requirement on Friday for its five San Antonio hospitals. In the Houston area, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System plans to follow Houston Methodist Hospital, which was the first in Texas to mandate vaccinations. Many employees sued Methodist but a federal judge in June sided with the hospital. That led to more than 150 people losing their jobs or resigning.

More Than 600,000 Texas Households Are Behind On Rent, According To Census Bureau Report

On Saturday, the federal moratorium on evictions lifted. That's as a Census Bureau survey reports that, from late June to early July, more than 600,000 Texas households are behind on rent.

Allyson Waller, reporter with the Texas Tribune, told public radio's Texas Standard that renters are now focusing on alternative resources.

"Tenants might have a local program within their county or within their city," Waller said. "And so in lieu of participating in the state rent relief program, there's been a lot of encouragement for people to check out local and state programs as well."

Currently, around 40 Texas cities and counties offer emergency rental assistance, according to the low-income housing nonprofit Texas Housers.

Monday, Aug. 2

Dallas County Reports 870 Cases, Three Deaths

The three deaths give Dallas County a total of 4,206. The deaths reported Monday include people who ranged in age from their 50s to their 60s and all had underlying health conditions.

About 86% of cases diagnosed for the week ending July 24 were residents who were not fully vaccinated.

Tarrant County Reports 738 Cases, One Death

The death reported is a man from Fort Worth in his 80s who had underlying health conditions. Tarrant County now has 3,654 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and people 261,419 have recovered.

Texas Health Resources Announces Employee Vaccination Mandate

A third major employer in North Texas has decided to mandate COVID vaccinations. Texas Health Resources says all of its 23,000 employees have to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 10.

The move follows recent similar announcements from Baylor Scott & White Health and Methodist Health System. However, Dallas County's public hospital system won't do the same.

Mike Malaise is senior vice president of communications for Parkland Health & Hospital System. He told the Dallas Morning News Parkland agrees with the decisions made by the other hospital systems but is restricted by Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order against public entities mandating a COVID vaccine.

Parkland Hospitals Urge Parents To Get Vaccinations For Children As School Starts, Offers Walk-In Clinics On Wednesday

Parkland Health & Hospital System recommends that parents get their children up to date on childhood vaccinations that are mandated by school districts, and that students over 12 receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

In Texas, before entering kindergarten, children are required to have been vaccinated for Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis; Polio; Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR); Hepatitis B; Varicella; Meningococcal; and Hepatitis A. Children in daycare must also be vaccinated. For older students, a Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis booster and Meningococcal vaccines are required for school.

Parkland’s Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) health centers and Youth & Family centers located throughout Dallas County conveniently offer immunizations without an appointment on Wednesdays. Parents can bring their children on “Walk-in Wednesdays” to get all of their immunizations for back-to-school.

Immunizations during Walk-in-Wednesdays are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parents can still walk-in with their children for vaccinations on other days, but appointments are recommended. To schedule an appointment for your child at a Parkland COPC health center, call (214) 266-4000. To schedule an appointment at a Youth & Family Center, call (214) 266-1257.

COVID-19 vaccinations are not currently offered at Parkland’s COPCs. For individuals age 12 and older, COVID-19 vaccines are available at pop-up events located throughout Dallas County. To find a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site near you, please visit https://www.parklandhospital.com/community-calendar.

Parkland also offers COVID-19 vaccinations to those 12 years and older at: Ellis Davis Field House, 9191 S. Polk St., Dallas, 75232 between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Wednesday – Saturday.

Vaccination appointments for COVID-19 can be scheduled at Parkland COPCs by calling (214) 590-7000 from Monday - Saturday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Masks Still Required On Trains and Buses In North Texas

Though Gov. Greg Abbott banned government entities, including public schools, from having mask mandates, transportation networks still require masks until Sept. 13.

That's because the Transportation Security Administration has an executive mask order in place, which applies to transit networks across the country.

Gordon Shattles is director of external relations at Dallas Area Rapid Transit. He says the mask requirement applies to riders and transit employees on buses, trains, and in DART buildings. He said dispensers with free masks and hand sanitizer are available in vehicles and buildings.

"We are maintaining our high level of cleaning on all of our vehicles, so that for our light rails that means a deep cleaning of course at all of our rail stations, and of the tune up stations for our rails," Shattles said. "Our buses are cleaned nightly and if you have a reason to go to a DART building, those are being cleaned on a regular basis as well."

Shattles said signs in DART facilities display information about mask requirements. DART police and fare enforcement officers are also enforcing the mask requirement.

In Tarrant County, Trinity Metro is also providing masks.

The Denton County Transit Authority said passengers without face coverings could be denied service.

Cook Children's Medical Center Reports 16 Patients

There are currently 16 patients with COVID-19 across the hospital system, and the seven-day positivity rate is 10.3%. That's compared to a 1% positivity rate the week of June 2.

Hospitalizations Quadrupled In Texas Over The Past Month

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Texas have more than quadrupled in the past month. The Department of State Health Services reports hospitals were treating 6,594 patients as of Saturday.

This summer's surge, driven almost entirely by unvaccinated Texans, presents new challenges for health professionals. That includes Houston Methodist nurse Avery Taylor.

"This time around feels like we're walking into a cave of needless suffering," Taylor said. "These patients don't need to be in hospital beds. Nobody needs to be suffering from this. We have a magic bullet and we're not taking it."

The resurgence of COVID-19 in Texas has put health systems in at least two cities in dire circumstances.

The Austin health department Friday said only nine beds were available in intensive care units for the 11-county trauma service region. San Antonio's facing a nursing shortage caused by the COVID-19 surge.

As of Saturday, less than 44% of the total Texas population had been fully vaccinated. The national rate is near 50%.

Learning Loss Is Still Happening For Students, Particularly For Black, Hispanic, and Native American Students

The pandemic continues to cause many kids to fall behind in school, even after returning to the classroom. New York Times reporter Sarah Mervosh talked with public radio's Texas Standard.

"Students did actually make gains over the past pandemic school year, just at a slower rate than normal, but the difference is significant," Mervosh said. "So by one estimate students are four to five months behind where they normally would have been by the end of the school year."

Mervosh said Black, Hispanic, and Native American students experienced a disproportionate amount of learning loss, compared to White and Asian students.

Exxon Reports Second-Quarter Profit

Exxon Mobil swung back to a second-quarter profit as demand for fuel recovered from lows reached earlier in the pandemic. The Irving-based oil giant earned $4.69 billion, which beat analyst expectations.

The recovery came during a politically tumultuous time for the oil industry. Exxon shareholders recently voted to replace three of the company’s 12 board members with directors they said were better equipped to handle climate change.

Will Evictions Increase In Texas?

A federal freeze on most evictions enacted last year expired Saturday. The moratorium, put in place by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, has been the only tool keeping millions of tenants in their homes. Many of them lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and had fallen months behind on their rent.

Federal funds have flowed into Texas to help tenants who qualify pay their rent.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition says Texas is one of the states doing the best at distributing its funds quickly. But renters' advocates expect evictions and homelessness to increase once the moratorium ends.

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

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