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COVID-19 In DFW Aug. 16-Aug. 22: Gov. Greg Abbott Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Headshot of Greg Abbott with flag in the background.
Eric Gay
/
AP
FILE - In this Tuesday, June 8, 2021, file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas. Abbott, who faces a contested reelection primary next year, is pushing looser gun laws than he ever previously embraced and proposing unprecedented state actions, including promises to build more walls on the Mexican border. Similar scenes are playing out in campaigns in other red states including Arkansas and Idaho, where ultra right-wing challengers are tapping into anger among Republicans over Trump’s election loss and coronavirus-related lockdowns.

The governor suffered mild symptoms and a brief infection, and encouraged unvaccinated Texans to get the shot.

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

Sunday, Aug. 22

U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls Tests Positive For COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas says that he’s tested positive for COVID-19 and has moderate symptoms.

Nehls, a Republican from the Houston area, said Saturday that he is fully vaccinated and hopes the symptoms pass soon. “All Americans are free to make their own health decisions, but I strongly encourage getting vaccinated,” he wrote on Twitter Saturday. “It is scientifically proven to drastically reduce the risk of severe illness & death from COVID.”

Nehls, the former sheriff of Fort Bend County who was elected to Congress last year, had said on Wednesday that a close family member had tested positive. Nehls said he has been quarantining at home and will continue to do so for at least the next 10 days.

Tarrant County Reports 989 New Cases

Tarrant County Public Health is reporting 989 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. This brings the total number of cases for the county to 293,809.

The community spread level is currently at high.

Saturday, Aug. 21

After Infection, Gov. Greg Abbott Says He Is Testing Negative For COVID-19

Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he is now testing negative for COVID-19. Abbott's office announced he tested positive Tuesday, after attending what he called a "standing room only" political event in Collin County the night before.

The governor attributed his "brief and mild" infection to being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In a video message on Twitter, he encouraged unvaccinated Texans to consider getting shots.

Abbott's office said Tuesday he was receiving antibody treatment and isolating at the Governor's Mansion. The governor says he "will continue to quarantine at the recommendation of doctors."

Tarrant County Reports 1,111 New Cases

Tarrant County has now seen 292,820 total cases of COVID-19. Officials also report 268,436 people have recovered. Community spread of COVID-19 in the county remains high.

Dallas County Offers Back-To-School Immunizations

Dallas County Health and Human Services will host a back-to-school immunization event today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at T.R. Hoover CDC on Bexar Street. Students and their families can also pick up free school supplies. Masks are required at the event.

Friday, Aug. 20

Vaccine Expert Says COVID-19 Booster Shots Needed Due To Early Rollout

One of Texas' top vaccine experts says COVID-19 booster shots are needed because of the rapid, early rollout of the vaccines.

Dr. Peter Hotez with Baylor College of Medicine says the three-to-four-week wait times prescribed for a second Pfizer or Moderna shot were shorter than what would have made them most effective. He told Houston Matters today the move helped save more lives.

"But when you made that commitment to do that very tight spacing interval what it meant was you sacrificed the durability and length of protection,” he said. “ So that turned it into a three-dose vaccine and we knew there was going to be a need for a booster at some point."      

The federal government plans to make booster shots available in late September to adults who've been fully vaccinated for at least eight months.

Fort Worth ISD Plans Temporary Virtual Learning Option This Fall

FWISD will offer a temporary virtual learning option for students who are unable to return to school because of a documented medical condition. The offering will be for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The FWISD Board of Education will meet on Tuesday and vote on whether to provide funding for the online option.

Pending board approval, the virtual learning option would begin on Sept. 13 and continue through the fall semester.

Attorney General Sues San Antonio ISD Over Vaccine Mandate

Attorney General Ken Paxton asked for a temporary restraining order against San Antonio ISD after it mandated vaccines for employees. The complaint said that the school district did not follow an executive order (GA-38) that prohibits government entities and officials from mandating shots.

“Executive Order GA-38 clearly states that government entities in Texas cannot impose mandates for vaccines with only an emergency use authorization,” Attorney General Paxton said in a statement. “The Texas Legislature gave the Governor the authority to create and enforce executive orders during a statewide emergency – not a hodgepodge of county judges, city mayors or superintendents. If other governmental entities continue to blatantly disregard state law, I will sue every single one of them.”

Unemployment Rates Fall For The Fourth Month In A Row

The Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday the state's unemployment rate in July fell for a fourth month in a row to 6.2%. That's down three-tenths of a percent from June but higher than the national rate, which is 5.4%.

Texas gained nearly 81,000 non-agricultural jobs in July. Leisure and hospitality added more than 20,000 jobs. Manufacturing added 8,300 positions.

Locally, the Amarillo and Austin areas maintained the lowest unemployment rates in the state at just above 4%. The Beaumont and McAllen areas recorded the highest jobless rates last month at around 10%.

Thursday, Aug. 19

Texas Hospital Officials Say Staff Are Demoralized

Hospital officials in Texas say morale is low as the number of COVID-19 patients surges. Dr. Michael Lamanteer, with BSA Health System in Amarillo, said staff are already working long hours.

"Then when we see individuals that continue to come into the hospital and are having severe consequences of COVID and they're not taking the personal responsibility or accountability to get vaccinated, and they end up taxing the healthcare system, it's frustrating."

There are roughly 12,400 coronavirus patients statewide.

Cases Continue To Rise In North Texas's 4 Biggest Counties.

There are over 1,000 new cases and four additional deaths in Dallas County today. The county reports 62% of residents over 12 are at least partially vaccinated. There are over 1,000 new cases in Tarrant County today as well.

Denton County reported 427 new cases and four more deaths related to the virus today. There are around 200 new cases in Collin County.

Nursing Home Director Worries Vaccine Requirement For Staff Will Make Recruitment Harder

President Biden’s announcement directing all nursing homes to require staff get vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose federal funding could impact already short-staffed facilities in Texas.

Dr. Michael Krol is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin's Dell Medical School, and the medical director of several nursing homes in the Austin area.

He told Texas Standard Wednesday it’s already challenging to recruit new staff without a vaccination requirement.

​"I can’t imagine what would happen if people left because of vaccinations, how we would be able to take care of these residents. They’re really requiring high-touch work.”    

About 50% of nursing home employees in Texas are fully vaccinated.

Wednesday, Aug. 18

Paris ISD Finds Loophole In Gov. Abbott's Mask Mandate Ban

In Northeast Texas, one school district has made face coverings part of the dress code. The board of the Paris ISD authorized the change Tuesday night at a special meeting.

The inclusion of masks in the dress code was made in defiance of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on local mask mandates. A statement released by Paris ISD said the governor does not have the authority to usurp the power of the school's board.

Paris ISD is one of three school districts serving Paris, a city of about 25,000, located 100 miles northeast of Dallas.

Scientists Project Higher Vaccine Rates Would've Lowered Texas Hospitalizations

Researchers say that if 74% percent of Texas adults had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of July, tens of thousands of hospital visits and new cases could have been avoided.

"We found that this boosted vaccination would have prevented 193,000 cases in the state of Texas," said Pratha Sah, a scientist at Yale University's Center for Infectious Disease and Modeling Analysis. "It would have prevented 32,000 hospitalizations, and it would have saved 1,900 lives." (

State health officials report roughly 55% of Texans 12 and older are fully vaccinated. Sah says the research underscores the importance of increasing the vaccination rate in Texas.

Tuesday, Aug. 17

Gov. Greg Abbott Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Gov. Greg Abbott tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the Office of the Governor.

In the statement, Communications Director Mark Miner said Abbott had been testing daily, and Tuesday was the first time he returned a positive test result.

Abbott will isolate in the Governor's Mansion and continue to test daily, and he is receiving antibody treatment.

"Gov. Abbott is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, in good health, and currently experiencing no symptoms," the statement said. "Everyone that the Governor has been in close contact with today has been notified. Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott tested negative."

Read more here.

Fort Worth ISD School Board Votes To Join Lawsuit Challenging Mask Mandate Ban

The Fort Worth school district will join a lawsuit challenging Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates.

Trustees voted Tuesday night to take part in La Joya ISD’s lawsuit, which says Abbott does not have the authority to tell schools they can’t require masks.

This comes after a court order blocked the mask mandate Fort Worth ISD tried to put in place last week.

Read more from KERA's Miranda Suarez.

FWISD Will Host Vaccination Clinics

Eligible students, staff, and their families will be able to get COVID-19 shots at 14 different Fort Worth ISD campuses starting on Aug. 23. The clinics run until Sept. 22 and have no cost. Vaccines will be given from 3:30-8:30 p.m.

Registration is preferred. Each site has a link to book an appointment. Walk-ins will be accommodated. The schedule is as follows:

Odessa Hospital Is At Maximum Capacity

There are now nearly 11,800 COVID-19 patients in Texas and the rapidly increasing number is putting pressure on hospitals across the state. The largest hospital in Odessa is warning residents it has reached maximum capacity.

Russell Tippin, the CEO of Medical Center Hospital, discussed the "dire situation" Monday night.

"Medical Center is full," he said. "We have a number tonight that we haven't seen, I was on the phone with a couple of doctors earlier tonight, we are at a census load that we have not seen in 20 years."

Tippin said only people with an "extreme emergency" should come to the hospital.

El Paso Approves Mask Mandate

El Paso is the latest Texas city to defy Governor Abbott and move forward with an indoor mask mandate amid concerns about the delta variant. A majority of city council members approved taking legal action to protect the right of the local health official to issue the order.

In a 5 to 3 vote, El Paso city council approved having Public Health authority Dr. Hector Ocarranza impose an indoor mask mandate. During the emergency meeting Monday afternoon more than 70 people called in including Lisa Martinez who opposed the mandate and Rogelio Carrasco who was in favor of it.

Martinez: “I would like to encourage city council to let parents parent our children."

Carrasco: "Listen to the science and if that means having to fight Governor Abbott by all means, please do it."

El Paso’s city council also voted to sue Gov. Greg Abbott for his executive order that limits local officials from “effectively handling public health emergencies.”

Dallas County Is Seeing Some Of Its Highest Numbers For COVID-19 Hospital Visits

Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Philip Huang said the county is seeing some of the highest numbers of hospital visits for coronavirus since the pandemic started.

More than 800 people are currently in the hospital for coronavirus, including 56 pediatric cases.

Huang is hopeful those numbers will drop heading into the fall, but he said there’s no way to be sure.

“There’s so much unpredictability in this, and we have to be humble in all of our predictions,” Huang said. “It is so dependent on how our community responds in terms of getting more of the people who are not vaccinated fully vaccinated.”

More than 1 million people in Dallas County are fully vaccinated, and Huang said he’s seen vaccination rates climbing over the past few weeks. The health department’s clinic site has also started administering booster shots for people with weakened immune systems.

Dallas County reported 4,417 new cases on Tuesday, a three-day total from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Three deaths were reported, giving the county a total of 4,251 deaths.

Monday, Aug. 16

Masks Still Required At Dallas ISD Schools

The Dallas Independent School District is forging ahead with its policy requiring masks despite a ruling from the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court.

The Justices on Sunday temporarily halted lower court rulings that allowed Dallas and Bexar County officials to issue mask mandates in defiance of the Governor's pandemic orders. But, Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa says the high court's decision only applies to counties.

"It's just as shame that as we're coming back to school that we're dealing with these kinds of matters. But I do appreciate the support we've received from the community regarding this whole matter," Hinojosa said. "And if we lose we lose, but until we're told that we lost, we're going to keep moving forward."

Dallas ISD is using three different calendars this year, but today is the first day of class for most schools.

Judge Sides With San Antonio And Bexar County In Mask Mandate Lawsuit

Judge Toni Arteaga has sided with San Antonio and Bexar County in granting a temporary injunction on face mask mandates for schools, as well as city and county offices and buildings. It’s the second victory for the city and county in a week at the district court level.

At the hearing, the San Antonio argued that it has the legislative authority to adopt measures such as the mask mandate in the jurisdiction of public health. Bill Christian, who represented the city in the hearing and gave closing arguments on the city’s behalf, said COVID-19 threatens immediate and irreparable harm to the community. The attorney for the county, Bob Piatt, conferred.

Read more about the ruling here.

Dallas County Removes Fines For Businesses From Mask Order, Following Supreme Court's Ruling

In response to the Texas Supreme Court temporarily halting lower court rulings that allowed Dallas and Bexar County officials to issue mask mandates, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has amended the county's mask order.

Under the new version, businesses will not be fined if they don't comply with the mask order.

One Texas School District Is Offering Students $50 To Get Vaccinated

As kids across Texas head back to school, local leaders are taking steps to try to protect them from COVID-19.

Officials in the Rio Grande Valley today unveiled an initiative to encourage students who are 12 to 18 years old to get vaccinated.

Cameron County Commissioner David A. Garza pushed for the incentive program.

He announced students in Cameron County schools who got their first shot starting August 10th will receive a $50 debit card.

"This program will run through Sept. 30 in hopes that we can at least 10,000 kids that are not vaccinated, that will be going to school, vaccinated", Garza said.

The incentive program comes as school districts in the area, such as Brownsville ISD, challenge the governor's ban on mask mandates amid a surge in cases.

Bexar County Judge Strikes Down Governor's Executive Order That Prevented Some People From Being Released From Jail

A state district judge in Bexar County has dealt Gov. Greg Abbott a statewide defeat over his use of emergency powers.

Judge Ron Rangel found the governor had acted unconstitutionally when he used the Texas Disaster Act to suspend parts of the Texas Code of Criminal procedure.

The case revolved around Janie Villeda, a woman who had accrued enough good behavior time to be released from Bexar County Jail but was barred by the governor’s GA-13 executive order.

Nathan Fennell with the Texas Fair Defense Project represented Villeda along with the Bexar County Public Defender's Office.

“The disaster act in a lot of ways is just sort of a Trojan Horse that the  governor has been using to write the policies that the governor would prefer,” Fennell said.

It is unclear if the governor or the attorney general will appeal the order being struck down. The attorney general's office didn't offer any defense of the measure.

The order issued in late March 2020 has caused larger than normal jail populations in Bexar County and larger overtime bills, according to the sheriff.

Richardson ISD Will Require Masks For Students

The Richardson Independent School District says it will require masks for all students, staff and visitors starting Tuesday, when the school year begins.

While the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked local mask mandates, RISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone referenced a Travis County court order, which currently allows Texas schools to make local decisions on masking.

"We are doing what the law currently allows to protect students and our health care system," she said in a video released by the district. "I urge parents to not place your children in the middle of an ongoing political and legal situation and work within RISD's guidelines so our teachers, administrators, nurses and employees are able to effectively serve students."

Stone also announced the return of a virtual school option to elementary-age children. That starts Aug. 23.

Number Of Hospitalized Patients Decreases Slightly

The Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council released data showing a slight decrease in COVID-19 patients hospitalized over the weekend. DFW hospitals reported the difference was about 27 patients.

COVID-19 cases are currently taking up close to 20 percent of the county’s bed capacity. A majority of the patients in these intensive care units are unvaccinated adults.

With the delta variant making up most of the cases in the ICUs, the hospital council is urging people to get vaccinated and wear masks regularly.

Dallas County Reports 893 Cases, Four Deaths

The four deaths give Dallas County a total of 4,248. The deaths reported Monday included people who ranged in age from their 40s to their 60s, and all but one had underlying health conditions.

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

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