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COVID-19 In DFW Aug. 8-Aug. 15: Some Schools' Mask Mandates Upheld, Others Struck Down In Court

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Many urban school districts issued mask mandates despite Gov. Greg Abbott's order banning mandates in public settings. Dallas and San Antonio prevailed in appeals court; Fort Worth's mandate was struck down.

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

Saturday, Aug. 14

Tarrant County Reports 1,704 New Cases, Five Deaths

Tarrant County has now seen 3,701 confirmed deaths from COVID-19. County officials also report 264,878 people have recovered. Community spread of COVID-19 remains high in the area.

Dallas County Marks 500,000 Vaccine Doses Administered At Fair Park

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins will join Dr. Philip Huang, the director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, today to celebrate 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered at Fair Park.

Officials operated a mass vaccination site there from January 11 through July 17. Weekly pop-up vaccine clinics at Fair Park are scheduled through September 18. Doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be offered on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Lot 13.

Friday, Aug. 13

Judge Blocks Fort Worth ISD's Mask Mandate

A judge on Friday granted a temporary restraining order preventing the Fort Worth Independent School District from requiring masks amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Star-Telegram reports.

Four parents of students who attend Fort Worth ISD filed a petition seeking the restraining order.

A hearing was held in the 141st District Court in Fort Worth.
The 230-page lawsuit filed Thursday identifies Jennifer Treger, Todd Daniel, Kerri Rehmeyer and a Jane Doe as plaintiffs in the case. Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner and the Fort Worth school district are the defendants.

The petition states that the district’s current face-covering policy is an illegal act under Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting local government mask mandates.

FWISD issued a statement after the order was handed down, saying they will honor the court order.

"We believe Tuesday’s announcement regarding masks for students, employees, and visitors to our campuses was the right thing to do," the statement said. "Nevertheless, FWISD strongly recommends that all students, parents, employees and visitors, please, consider the importance of wearing a face mask while we are still in the midst of the pandemic and COVID cases remain high."

Appeals Courts Uphold Mask Mandates In Dallas, San Antonio

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suffered a pair of defeats Friday in his bid to overturn mask mandates in Dallas and Bexar counties, The Texas Tribune reports.

The 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio tossed out Abbott’s appeal to nix an order by the local health authority in Bexar County mandating mask-wearing in local public schools. Abbott sought to overturn a lower court ruling that allowed the local mandate.

Minutes later, the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas made an identical ruling in Abbott’s challenge to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ order mandating masks in public schools, universities and businesses — upholding the mandate there.

Abbott is all but certain to take the matter to the Texas Supreme Court.

Travis County Judge Temporarily OKs Mask Mandates For Harris County And Other Districts

A state district judge has granted Harris County and several Texas school districts temporary permission to implement mask requirements and other safety measures against COVID-19.

The Houston Chronicle and KVEO-TV reported the Travis County judge’s decisions. Judge Jan Soifer of the 345th Civil District Court granted separate temporary restraining orders against Abbott for requests made by Harris County and at least six independent school districts: Edinburg Consolidated ISD, La Joya ISD, Edcouch-Elsa ISD, Hidalgo ISD, Brownsville ISD and Crowley ISD, according to the Chronicle and KVEO-TV.

The orders allow Harris County to leave in place a health order released Thursday that requires masks to be worn at schools and child care centers. In a statement on Twitter, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the county had “no choice” but to implement masks orders, citing coronavirus cases among children as the school year begins.

Masks Required In The City Of Denton

City of Denton primary schools, colleges and businesses will have to require that people inside their buildings wear face coverings starting this morning.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the city council passed an ordinance Thursday night making masks mandatory indoors on a five-to-two vote. The ordinance took effect at 12:01 a.m.

Mayor Gerard Hudspeth and Council member Jesse Davis voted against the ordinance, which closely tracks the language of an order in Dallas County.

Read more about how supporters on the council say rising cases and hospitalizations were behind the decision from the Star-Telegram.

Dallas ISD Offers Cash Incentives To Employees If They Get Vaccinated

The Dallas Independent School District is offering a cash incentive to employees who get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. District officials will give a one-time, $500 payment to DISD staff who provide proof of vaccination.

To participate in the voluntary program, employees must fill out a form and submit documentation, like a COVID-19 vaccination card or written confirmation from a doctor.

The $500 incentive will be added to paychecks within about 45 days.

Officials say the effort will also help DISD track how many employees are fully vaccinated, which can help inform contact tracing and quarantine processes.

Texas Hospitals Struggle To Keep Up With Influx Of Patients

Texas hospitals continue facing a torrent of coronavirus patients as hospitalizations increase faster than at any other time during the pandemic.

Ben Saldana, a doctor at Houston Methodist, says he's seeing younger people need help.

"I think about 42% of all of our hospitalizations are between 25 and 50 where before it was an older population," Saldana said.

The doctor spoke with NPR's Here and Now Thursday. There are nearly 10,800 COVID-19 patients in Texas.

Local Leaders Band Together To Defy Governor's Order Banning Mask Mandates

Elected leaders from four of the state’s largest counties, four cities, and two ISDs met virtually to condemn Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee spoke ahead of a court hearing in a lawsuit challenging the order. Menefee denounced Abbott’s order as an abuse of the Disaster Act.

“He’s using that law now to do nothing more than to say, ‘My view of people’s constitutional rights is that they should not have to wear masks, and therefore, I’m going to use this law to suspend any other law you might use to keep people safe.’" Menefee said. "And it’s wrong, it’s likely unconstitutional, and I will say, it’s a very scary time.”

Gov. Abbott has added an item to the special session agenda that would codify his order banning local governments from enacting mask mandates into state law.

Dallas County HHS Is Offering Free Back-To-School Immunizations On Saturday

The immunization clinic will take place at the main Dallas County Health and Human Services building at 2377 N. Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Limited COVID-19 vaccines will be offered.

Parents and guardians must bring their child's most recent immunization records and make an appointment by calling (972) 692-2780.

More Antibody Infusion Centers Are Opening Around Texas

A total of nine centers will be running in Texas. The first one, in San Antonio, has served about 100 patients since opening on Tuesday, and another in Corpus Christi — operating at the RMB Fairgrounds — opened on Friday.

An infusion center will launch Monday in Austin at the Travis County Expo Center, and others will open in Conroe, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Laredo soon.

A regional infusion center for the Rio Grande Valley will open Saturday in Harlingen.

Dallas County Reports 915 Cases, Four Deaths

The four deaths give Dallas County a total of 4,244. The deaths reported Friday were of people who ranged in age from their 50s to their 80s, and all had underlying health conditions.

The seven-day average of new cases for the week ending Aug. 7 was 949, a rate of 36 new cases daily per 100,000 residents.

Tarrant County Reports 956 Cases, Four Deaths

The deaths include a man from Arlington in his 70s, a man from Fort Worth in his 60, a woman from Fort Worth in her 50s and a woman from unincorporated Tarrant County in her 50s. All had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 3,696 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and people 264,496 have recovered.

Thursday, Aug. 12

Governor, Attorney General Mount Legal Challenge To Dallas County Mask Order

Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are asking the state's Fifth Court of Appeals to block a new Dallas County order requiring face coverings. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced Wednesday masks will be required in public schools, businesses and child care centers.

On Thursday, Jenkins updated his executive order on face masks. It now calls for all public higher education institutions in the county to implement indoor masking policies. The order also specifies that employees of commercial businesses — and county employees —don't have to wear masks when alone in the office, among other changes.

"The health and safety policy must require at a minimum universal indoor masking for all employees and visitors," Jenkins said when announcing the order.   

Governor Abbott is seeking to strike down Dallas County's order as a growing number of cities and counties challenge his ban on mask mandates. Jenkins issued the new mask policy after a state district judge granted his request for a temporary restraining order against Abbott's executive order.

Dallas County Reports 1,009 New Cases 

Another 1,009 cases raise the total to 281,955. Of the cases reported today, 834 are confirmed.

Two deaths were reported today including: A Dallas man in his 50s and a Grand Prairie man in his 70s.

815 More Cases In Tarrant County 

An additional 815 cases brings the total to 282,806. There have been 3,692 deaths and 264,099 people who have recovered from the virus in the area.

So far, 18% of the county’s hospital beds are filled by patients with COVID-19.

Denton County Announces 499 New Cases 

There are 499 new cases, increasing the total to 83,129. There have been 56 newly recovered cases, which brings the total to 76, 579.

Texas Getting Help From Out Of State Doctors To Manage Burden On Hospitals

Texas is sending more than 2,500 medical personnel to help hospitals manage a surge in coronavirus patients.

The Department of State Health Services has sought help from out-of-state health care workers to address staffing shortages across Texas.

Nearly 10,500 people in Texas are hospitalized for COVID-19.

Wednesday, Aug. 11

CDC Stresses Vaccine Is Safe For Pregnant People

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging all pregnant people, people thinking about becoming pregnant and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

CDC has released new data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people and is recommending all people 12 years of age and older get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

A new CDC analysis did not find an increased risk of miscarriage among nearly 2,500 pregnant women who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriage typically occurs in about 11-16% of pregnancies, and this study found miscarriage rates after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine were around 13%, similar to the expected rate of miscarriage in the general population.

Previously, data from three safety monitoring systems did not find any safety concerns for pregnant people who were vaccinated late in pregnancy or for their babies.

Combined, these studies and the known severe risks of COVID-19 during pregnancy demonstrate that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant people outweigh any known or potential risks, according to CDC.

The agency says doctors have seen the number of pregnant people infected with COVID-19 rise in the past several weeks.

Dallas County Reports 1,350 New Cases 

Another 1,350 cases raises the total to 281,121. Of the cases reported today, 631 are confirmed.

Six deaths were reported today including:

  • A Dallas man in his 20s 
  • A Rowlett woman in her 30s 
  • A Dallas man in his 50s 
  • A Dallas woman in her 60s 
  • A Dallas woman in her 70s 
  • A Richardson woman in her 80s 

846 More Cases Reported In Tarrant County 

An additional 846 cases brings the total to 281,991. There have been 3,689 deaths and 263,710 people who have recovered from the virus in the area.

The community spread level is “high.”

Denton County Announces 530 New Cases 

There have been 530 more cases in the area, increasing the total to 82,631. The death of a Denton woman in her 70s was reported today.

There have been 81 newly-recovered cases, increasing the countywide recovery total to 76,523.

Clay Jenkins Issues Indoor Mask Mandate In Dallas County

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has signed a new executive order mandating face masks in many buildings and businesses. The order goes into effect today, just before midnight.

Watch video below of Jenkins announcing the order from WFAA.

Jenkins says all public schools as well as childcare centers in Dallas County must implement universal masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of their COVID vaccination status, except for kids under 2. The order also calls for indoor masking in businesses and Dallas County buildings.

A judge's ruling this week paved the way for Jenkins to require face coverings. Two Texas judges ruled Dallas County, Bexar County and San Antonio can implement face mask requirements despite a ban on such mandates by Gov. Greg Abbott. That’s after the counties sued the governor on Tuesday.

The restraining orders temporarily block the governor’s ban on face mask requirements only in Dallas County, San Antonio and Bexar County, but other local government entities could follow with similar lawsuits. San Antonio immediately issued a face mask requirement for K-12 schools. A full hearing is set for Monday in San Antonio and later this month in Dallas.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg welcomed the decision Tuesday saying local leaders across the state have had enough.

“We need to make sure that the health authorities are able to issue directives and that the local authorities are able to manage through this pandemic,” Nirenberg said. “It is tragically ironic that the governor would use his emergency powers to keep local officials from managing that very emergency.”

Tuesday, Aug. 10

Fort Worth ISD To Require Masks, Joining Other Large Texas Districts

Tuesday evening, Fort Worth joined several of the state’s large school districts and issued a mask requirement in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott's order banning mask mandates.

The district made the announcement at a school board meeting Tuesday evening. WFAA reports about 20 people spoke at the meeting, all in favor of the mandate.

The Dallas and Austin school districts both announced Monday face coverings will be required for all staff, students and visitors, regardless of their vaccination status.

Earlier Tuesday, a Bexar County District judge ruled the City of San Antonio and Bexar County can issue mask mandates for school districts.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has an order in place banning government entities and schools from requiring face coverings. Dallas ISD rejected this idea in a statement.

"Gov. Abbott’s order does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students," the district said.

Judge Antonia Arteaga granted Bexar County and San Antonio a temporary restraining order against the state of Texas. The order halts a ban on school districts, cities and counties from enforcing mask mandates.

In her ruling, Judge Arteaga said she does not issue the restraining order lightly but the rise of COVID-19 cases is urgent.

Austin Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said she knows requiring masks won't please everyone.

"That being said I am responsible for the safety, the health, and the welfare for each and every one of our students and our staff," Elizalde said.

Houston ISD's board will vote on issuing a mask mandate later this week.

Dallas County Reports 3,270 Cases, Five Deaths

The 3,270 cases are a three-day total that includes Saturday, Sunday and Monday's daily totals. With the five deaths, Dallas County now has a total of 4,232 deaths. The deaths reported Tuesday included people who ranged in age from their 40s to their 80s, and all had underlying health conditions.

According to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, data from UTSW suggests that 97% of the cases in the county are caused by the Delta variant.

Tarrant County Is Seeing A Surge In Cases And Hospitalizations

Tarrant County health officials said COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rise rapidly.

Public health director Vinny Taneja updated county commissioners on Tuesday.

"We've had a thousand case day, 750 case day, so numbers are pretty high, so we're in a full on surge, we're in a high level of community spread," Taneja said. "All the indicators are y'know, going higher."

And Taneja said more COVID patients are occupying hospital beds.

"In Tarrant County we're at 18.72% hospital capacity consumed with COVID, that's one in every five-ish patients, so 819 patients in the hospital with COVID," he said.

The county reported 750 new cases on Tuesday.

Antibody Infusion Center Opens In San Antonio

San Antonio's Freeman Coliseum will open as a COVID-19 antibody infusion center on Tuesday, one of five that will open across Texas as coronavirus cases continue an upward surge. The infusion center will provide a one-hour treatment using the antibody therapy from Regeneron. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said about 150 people per day can be treated.

“A person that has COVID, has symptoms, needs to talk to their doctor, if the doctor thinks that this will be helpful then he will work up a slip for us" Wolff said. "And then they will schedule a time for that patient to go out.”

The hope is that using this center would keep COVID-19 patients from being hospitalized. Wolff said the center will be open as long as its needed. Bexar County has nearly 1,200 COVID-19 hospitalized patients, about 300 patients away from its all time high last winter.

Dallas County Judge, Local Parents Challenging Gov. Greg Abbott's Mask Mandate Ban

Late Monday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins asked a judge to block Abbott from enforcing his executive order that prohibits local governments from requiring masks.

Jenkins also wants to confirm he has the authority to take steps to respond to the pandemic, including requiring face coverings. Jenkins told WFAA yesterday he thinks the governor's order is unenforceable.

"In this situation the governor is choosing to not respond to an emergency like a lifeguard that is choosing to not save a life but he's stopping everyone from doing as well," Jenkins said.

Jenkins also praised the Dallas Independent School District for requiring masks in defiance of Abbott's orders.

Parents of 12 Dallas County children have also joined the lawsuit, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Read more about Jenkins' challenge to Abbott's order.

Texas Hospitals Seeing More Young Patients Than In Previous Surges

Health officials in the Rio Grande Valley say even though coronavirus vaccination rates are high locally, more people need to get the shots. Dr. James Castillo is the public health authority in Cameron County, where roughly 70% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. He says the latest wave of hospitalizations differs from previous ones because now patients are younger.

"They thought they didn't need the vaccine because they're young and healthy," Castillo said.

He urged young people to get the shots, saying it's the best way to protect oneself against COVID-19. Anyone 12 and older is eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

Texas Students Give The Option To Repeat Grade Levels

With most schools in Texas about to start the new semester, parents of younger students can opt for their children kids to repeat last year.

Parents of elementary and middle school kids in the state have to make the choice before school starts. That’s an option lawmakers gave them because of the pandemic learning loss.

The state says tens of thousands of pre-school and kindergarten students were not enrolled at all last school year —-- many more than in previous years. In higher grades, testing shows significant learning loss.

The state’s education agency offers some online advice to help parents decide whether their child should repeat the year or not. It basically comes down to how disruptive the year was.

The agency urged parents and their children to discuss the options before finalizing a decision.

Monday, Aug. 9

Dallas County Reports 796 Cases, Three Deaths

The three deaths give Dallas County a total of 4,227. The deaths reported Monday include people who ranged in age from their 40s to their 80s, and all had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County Reports 1,060 Cases, Three Deaths

The deaths include a woman from White Settlement in her 70s, a man from Arlington in his 60s, and a woman from Fort Worth in her 50s. All had underlying health conditions.

Tarrant County now has 3,681 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and people 263,044 have recovered.

Fort Worth ISD Shares COVID-19 Prevention Plan, Which Includes 'Strongly Encouraging' Everyone To Wear A Mask

All of Fort Worth ISD's campuses open for in-person learning on Aug. 16, and the district has shared its plans and protocols. That includes “strongly encouraging” everyone to wear a mask.

“We know that the best place for children to learn is in the classroom,” Superintendent Kent P. Scribner said in a statement. “In order to keep student learning on track, we all need to exercise the best safety protocols – such as appropriate masking, hand washing and sanitizing, and social distancing when possible. And, while we cannot mandate the wearing of masks, the district strongly encourages that everyone does so.”

Using the latest information available from local, state and federal health authorities, the District has updated its COVID guidance, which includes information on what to do if an employee or student tests positive. An additional 14-page Safe Return and Continuity of Services Plan outlines everything the district is doing to help ensure campuses are as safe as possible.

COVID-19 Is 'Dire' In Austin And Elsewhere

Hospitals are filling up and only a handful of ICU beds are available for an area that’s home to 2.3 million people. 184 people were reported in area ICUs on Friday — that’s nearly as many as the peak of the winter wave in January.

Resources in other areas of the state are even tighter. Hospitals in the Laredo area report they are completely out of ICU beds.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has banned any restrictions on businesses aimed at fighting the virus’ spread. He’s also banned any measures requiring students or teachers to wear masks in schools — which open in the next week or so.

Only a little more than half of eligible Texans are fully vaccinated, though there has been an uptick in the number of people getting the shot in the last few weeks.

Gov. Abbott Takes Action To Mitigate Rise In COVID-19 Cases In Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott announced a series of actions to mitigate the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will use staffing agencies to provide medical personnel from out-of-state to Texas health care facilities to assist in COVID-19 operations.

The governor also sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures, for which a delay will not result in loss of life or the deterioration of a patient's condition, in order to increase hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Abbott is directing the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and DSHS to open additional COVID-19 antibody infusion centers in communities across the state. These infusion centers will treat COVID-19 patients who do not need hospitalization with therapeutic drugs that can prevent their condition from worsening and requiring hospital care. The existing infusion center in Lubbock will expand capacity this week, and DSHS will launch five new centers throughout Texas beginning with a facility in San Antonio on Tuesday.

Lastly, Abbott is directing TDEM and DSHS to increase vaccination availability across the state and encourages all Texans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Texans can visit covidvaccine.texas.gov to find a provider near them. Texans can also utilize TDEM's State Mobile Vaccine Program by calling 844-90-TEXAS and selecting Option 3 to schedule a mobile vaccine clinic to vaccinate groups of of friends, families, employees, volunteers, and more. Homebound Texans can also call 844-90-TEXAS and choose Option 1 to request a mobile vaccine team to come to their home.

Emergency SNAP Benefits Extended Through August

Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will provide about $267 million in emergency SNAP food benefits for the month of August.

All SNAP households are receiving a minimum of $95 in emergency allotments. Recipients will continue to receive a 15% increase in their total benefits until September 2021. This increase and the emergency allotment should appear in recipients' accounts by Aug. 31.

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

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